4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Age Of Adz (Audio CD)
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.