45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sufjan battles the pink robots
This is a record that is going to divide opinion. Like many I became aware of Sufjan Stevens during the Michigan and Illinoise period, and like many I absolutely adored those records. I then explored his back catalogue and generally became a huge fan. Offerings since Illinois / Avalanch have been fairly sparse, and not so much to my liking, so the anticipation for...
Published on 11 Oct 2010 by Don Panik
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for me unfortunately
I'm surprised by the positive reviews expressed regarding this album. I want so very much to 'like' this album even if not 'love' it like I do (some of) his previous efforts. I have a lot of respect for artists willing to try things radically different from their previous releases - after the incredible 'Illinois' album I'm sure many people (myself included) expected more...
Published on 5 Jun 2012 by Charlie
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sufjan battles the pink robots,
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a record that is going to divide opinion. Like many I became aware of Sufjan Stevens during the Michigan and Illinoise period, and like many I absolutely adored those records. I then explored his back catalogue and generally became a huge fan. Offerings since Illinois / Avalanch have been fairly sparse, and not so much to my liking, so the anticipation for this release has been building for some time. The various outtakes and other tracks released on the All Delighted People EP wetted the appetite - but again left me feeling underwhelmed, wondering if perhaps he had lost his way a bit - or perhaps just his new way was not to my liking.
On hearing this record my first reaction was one of confusion. Here once again was the Sufjan that I loved, fantastic tunes beautifully sung, and intensely moving. But interspersed with great dollops of electronic squelching, and worst of all, what sounded like vocoder (or perhaps autotune). The overall effect to me was that he had taken a beautiful collection of music and scribbled over it with electronic graffiti. The experience of listening was also rather exhausting. I play a lot of music when I am in the car - and I was finding that I was getting to the end of the Sufjan journeys feeling tired and emotional. But this is Sufjan Stevens, so I persevered.
And then something happened, after about half a dozen listens the songs started to make more sense. The electronic noises became less jarring and the sense of a cohesive vision started to overtake the fear that he might have let self indulgence take over. The slightly ragged rendition of some parts began to feel less shoddy and more like a deliberate way of expressing the feeling behind the music.
So my overall conclusion? I would have preferred a more straightforwardly beautiful album in the style of Illinoise. All the ingredients are here, and the man has a unique way with melody. My initial disappointment has given way to a profound respect for what he has attempted here. This is a very good album. I think some fans will genuinely love it, in the same way that some fans liked `enjoy your rabbit'. Some will, like me initially will think that in places it's a bit of a mess. My advice would be not to judge it too harshly on first hearing. There is real genius at work here. I think that there are major flaws, but overall this is an album that repays careful listening and time to settle into your imaginings. Not sure how often I will play it - it remains an exhausting experience - but respect to the man, he has made a brave record here.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This music is so different!,
This is the 1st album that I have bought by Sufjan having seen it reviewed in a Hi Fi magazine. I have not stopped playing it since it arrived. It is classified as folk music, but I see its appeal as being far wider than that. I have also been listening to snippets of his other albums on Grooveshark and have now ordered the Illinoe album. The BQE album will be next. Buying the Age of Adz has renewed my interest in music, I am an old crusty 63 year old and I have been listening to music since the days of Buddy Holly. Go buy The Age of Adz its great!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sufjan Stevens does it again,
Firstly an apology, I cannot hold a candle to the other reviewers here and I will not try, you must read what they have to say for their eloquently penned critique.
I just feel compelled to say my piece.
OMG, Sufjan has done it again with this album 'The age of Adz'.
You see, I love many genres from classical to Rock, but believe me this guy is in a league of his own, he is a musical genius, of that I have no doubt, the like of which has not been seen since Lennon and McCartney, Beethoven or Bach. However appreciation of this does not always come easy, as with much of the better musical works, you often need to go through a pain barrier before the true beauty comes to you.... when it does you will never look back. Sufjan's talent is awesome, don't take my word for it, buy the album and listen listen listen, it's magic will be revealed to you.
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sufjan Stevens - Bold experimentation and priceless idiosyncrasy,
The new album by the "coolest musician in America" (Sunday Times) starts off by flattering to deceive. "Futile Devices" the opening track to Sufjan Stevens new set of songs could have happily appeared on the outstanding "Seven Swans" and is a gentle bubbling track with a fragile folksy beauty which Stevens can appear to evoke with consummate ease. So then Stevens is clearly going to compensate for his abandonment of his 50 state album cycle promise with a return to earlier glories?
No such chance, indeed while the ""he Age of Adz" has some transcendent moments, this is primarily an album of electronic soundscapes, whose trajectory can be loosely traced back in Stevens musical past to 2002's largely electronic Chinese Zodiac concept album "Enjoy your Rabbit". It is therefore not surprising that the critical reception to this album thus far has been in places bemused and quizzical (and in Uncut's case characterised by outright hostility questioning whether our hero is "a genius or just a show off").
The line between originality and over indulgence is of course a thin one but in Stevens case his ability to make his music soar is the special ingredient. For example the second track "Too much" is Sufjan Stevens meets Yeasayer and a joyous electronic concoction. The funky electronica of "I walked" revolves around an almost trip hop big synth loop and has Stevens trademark angelic vocals and surreal lyrics where he asks "Lover, will you look from me now/I'm already dead/but I've come to explain/why I left such a mess on the floor". Other highlights also include the gently rolling 'Vesuvius' which concentrates on giving self advice and messages to himself and "Bad communication" a short beautiful fragment of a song. The title track is alternatively; erm what's the word I'm looking for, yes thats it ....mental! A tribute of sorts to the weird abstract art of Louisiana based Royal Robertson it starts off with great Wagnerian voices then Stevens singing through cat calls and symphonic whistles over an eight minute hodgepodge powerhouse that has to heard to be believed not least the lovely acoustic end.
And then we have the final track the 25 minute (I kid you not!) "The Impossible Soul" which is a mini album in its own right and a sort of Tubular Bells for the Twitter Generation which wanders far and wide. It starts conventionally and then leads into a strange exhortation where Stevens cheekily pleads with us "Don't be distracted", has a lovely vocoder section, at 13 minutes sounds like Kraftwerk for 30 seconds and then has one of those "Illinois" style chants for a further 8 minutes around the refrain of "boy we can do much more together" underpinned by all sort of beeps, electronic synths and weird machinations. It finishes with a fairly straightforward but gorgeous Stevens song with the "boy" lyrical refrain back again. Oh look, listen to it yourself and connect with a song which has sections which will variously bore you, amaze you and often leave you in tears.
The "Age of Adz" is album devoid of discipline, restraint or brevity. It is a smorgasbord of ideas some of which work brilliantly, others fail gallantly and a few never get out of the starting gate. Certainly this a very different proposition to the mix of orchestrated packed bravado combined with the wintry acoustics of "Michigan" and "Illinois". Yet if the masterful experimentation of both those albums left you gasping for more "The Age of Adz" should hold no fear for you for this is pop or rock music in its loosest sense. Last year Stevens wrote a Stravinsky inspired album dedicated to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and only two months ago he released an EP entitled "All you delighted people" which extended to well over an hour. Stevens is a composer packed with musical ideas some great, some claptrap, some challenging and some sublime. What is the truth is that there no one else out there working this distinctive seam in this fashion and thereby "The Age of Adz" is full testimony to Stevens uniqueness and it should therefore be a cause of great celebration and rejoicing for this is not so much an album release as a musical event.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Challenging, Brave, Masterpiece,
There are some long reviews here......I'll be short and to the point
I'd just like to say that it needs a few plays...but keep with it. Sufjan has created a wonderful collection of songs that grow and grow. Its not always an easy listen but the production and arrangement are both wonderful.
Yes some of the electonica will jar a bit if you loved the folkie Sufjan of Seven Swans or the lush orchestra of Illinois. It works.
It will be on the critics end of year lists......so get it now.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular!,
I've had this album a week and played it dozens of times already. Every time I hear something new. It's a wonderful piece of work, fractured, melodic, heart-rending, unique.
I've always liked Sufjan Steven's music - or rather, the gentle guitar-based stuff he's done. Seven Swans, Michigan, Illinoise, the Avalanche. He is an excellent songwriter, and the clash between the sweetness of the melody and voice and the harshness of the lyrics in songs like John Wayne Gacy Jr and Romulus is breathtaking. And yet, song on song, the overall effect can get syrupy. It's just too pretty. It needed something to cut against the sweetness.
Maybe Stevens came to this conclusion too, for the Age of Adz provides an edge absent in those earlier albums. Using electronica like someone who's just learned its possibilities, he adds jarring sounds and chopped rhythms to the basic songs. Yet the melodies are there still, sweet sad verses and rousing choruses. The combination of the two is compelling and spectacular.
And the lyrics. It's difficult to pin down what he's singing about specifically. God? Love? Sexuality? Whatever, the words are intimate and vulnerable and yearning. They hint at loss, at broken hopes and missed opportunities, yet there is an optimism within them that is wildly uplifting, and suggests that Stevens' spirit is anything but crushed.
The songs vary in style and tone, from the discordant joyfulness of the Age of Adz to the sublime beauty of I Walked, one of those songs right up there with the very best melodies of his, or anybody else's, career. And then there is the splendour of Impossible soul, all 25 minutes and 34 seconds of it. Like a beautiful collage, it shifts from section to section, from plaintive song to rousing chants, and each time it comes to an end I can't believe how quickly the time has gone.
I don't know what prompted Sufjan Stevens to produce such an album, but I am so glad that he did. If you like this album half as much as I do, you're going to like it very very much indeed.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly great record...,
It's pretty unusual for me to think a record deserves 5 stars but after several listens of the new Sufjan Stevens, I think it deserves nothing else. As one of the reviewers previously says - it won't be for everyone, but it does deserve at least a couple of listens for the real beauty of this record to shine through what at first might appear nothing other than random electronic glitchyness behind each song.
I don't know if I agree that this is the radical departure other reviewers elsewhere have written about - some people may well think this on a first listen, in the way that many fans of Radiohead's OK Computer thought that Kid A was just as far removed; but as with Kid A - which most definitely had its roots in Radiohead's earlier work, "The Age Of Adz" is undeniably Sufjan Stevens and very familiar with it. The Kid A comparison rings true I think, especially in how this album will be recieved. Just as some Radiohead fans want nothing more than that band to produce another OK Computer or The Bends, some Sufjan fans will want him to carry on writing a thousand more songs which sound just like Chicago. This record is - at least for me - a much more exciting prospect, and the sound of an extraordinarily gifted musician, composer and songwriter stretching his abilities and seeking more than just resting on a style I am positive he could have fallen straight back on. This is the sound of an artist evolving.
The album opens with a short, but very pretty acoustic guitar driven "Futile Devices" before the squelchy opening drum beat of "Too Much" - one of the record's many highlights, and probably the closest sounding to previous work - with a great chorus and in the second half, many of the orchestral flourishes you'd expect from Sufjan weaving in and out of the electronics.
Some speculation has been made about Sufjan's mental state during the recording of this record - whether it is a true reflection of where he was during the writing and recordings or not, the themes of the songs often appear to float around depression, and salvation. The album title itself refers to a work by Royal Robertson, an artist who was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. "I want to be well, I want to be well, I need to be well" echoes the refrain in "I Want To Be Well", as Stevens howls "I'm not f***ing around" repeatedly over the top, before album closer "Impossible Soul" - all 25 minutes of it - loops and weaves its way through a myriad of different emotions and musical spaces. It's not only brave, it's beautiful, and it acts as a kind of one-movement concentration of everything that has gone before. By the time it reaches a low drone at around the 22.20 mark, an acoustic guitar returns to the forefront along with a softly intoned vocal. Ending the song he quietly repeats, in a heartfelt relection of his love, "Boy, we made such a mess/Together".
I think it would be a real shame for people to take a listen to this record - realise there's no "Chicago" and switch off from it. There is true beauty here and the electronic instrumentation only adds to the music by simply making it that much more interesting - something sadly lacking in many releases of late. Give it a chance - this one is destined to be a classic.
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Blend,
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This review is from: The Age Of Adz [VINYL] (Vinyl)
I'm going to quote a friends opinion on this album. "Sufjan Stevens' experimental electronic side (as seen on 2001's Enjoy Your Rabbit) finally comes to terms with his softer composer side (as seen on 2005's Illinois) and manages to perfectly balance the two on this album." Stevens ability to compose beautiful melodies and create sonic soundscapes almost seems effortless. I've listened to this album numerous times since it's release in 2010. Every listen gets better and better. Now that it is part of my vinyl collection it feels even closer to my heart. For only £17 this double LP is well worth a purchase.
5.0 out of 5 stars Weird and Wonderful!,
This review is from: The Age Of Adz [VINYL] (Vinyl)
Until this album came out I was never a huge Sufjan Stevens fan, I enjoyed a few of the songs but found it hard to sustain interest in listening to a whole album. However, since the first time I sat and listened to Adz I've been addicted! It's by no means as easy on the ear as others like Illinios but the bizzare mix of electronic, orchestral and choral bring something infectious and fascinating to the record. My highlights include the beautifully melancholic 'I walked' and 'Vesuvius'. This album may be something of an aquired taste, but it's brilliant!
5.0 out of 5 stars Feed my Sufjan addiction,
I am totally the wrong person to give you an objective view of this album...... I am totally addicted to Sufjan Stevens..... the Age of the Adz gives me such a rush. I spent a lot of time watching live concert footage of the album on YouTube before I got the album so the songs were already favourites before I bought it. I spent most of my holiday lazing on a beach listening to Sufjan on my iPod, I love the early stuff, his later albums are just as great, this man is surely a genius. I love it.
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