Having recently released the incredible All Delighted People EP, it should already be clear to most that the past 5 years of relative obscurity and lack of original solo output have been good to Sufjan Steven’s creativity. And, in case you were left in any doubt, The Age of Adz sees the maverick find his way firmly back to his own songs.
Leaving behind for the most part the banjo led nu-folk of his, now admittedly defunct, “50 States Project”, The Age of Adz spins a fragmented and oblique narrative punctuated by intimate lyrics, electronic glitches and swirling string arrangements.
Opening with the warm, gentle strums of ‘Futile Devices’, the pulsating, rhythmic orchestration swells beneath Stevens’ sombre, fragile vocals. Soaring over staccato plucking and piano keys he expresses the fallibility and futility of employing words to describe emotions, particularly love.
Distorted synths and percussion bubble beneath the electronic surface as the infectious pop of ‘Too Much’ ebbs back and forth. Soft keys and layered vocals build into a cacophony of instruments before the thunderous horn section and choral harmonies of the title track come crashing down. In amongst such manic electronic experimentation Steven’s offers up some extremely personal moments: Renowned as a composer as well as a lyricist, these moments come in songs such as ‘Now That I’m Older’ and lines like “somewhere, I lost whatever else I had.”
This album is a sumptuous mix of lo-fi percussion, off-kilter beats and sweeping instrumentation that have re-invigorated Stevens’ sound: captivating the listener from the off, flowing perfectly from one song to the next until the very last 25-minute epic that is ‘Impossible Soul.’