Never back Sufjan Stevens into a corner. Never try to stereotype him. Don’t even think about creating a new genre so you can describe him and his music.
Because he’ll disappoint you. He’ll tell you that he’s going to play catch with you, and he stands you up. He’ll blow your mind and he’ll frustrate you beyond comprehension (I suppose you would comprehend the frustration). Either way, the point is, never back Sufjan into a corner.
Case in point: his new album The Age of Adz. This is Sufjan’s first full-length release since 2005′s magnum opus (yeah, it’s looking like that will be the peak of his career) Come on fell the Illinois, Sufjan has lived in relative obscurity.
He has seemed to enjoy all the press, all the assumptions, all the glitz, and glamor. He’s opted for small, unsung projects such as The BQE and rereleasing The Year of the Rabbit. Perhaps that was foreshadowing for what was to come, as The Age of Adz is a return to the esoteric electronic idiosyncratic drones of his youth. Perhaps you can tell that I’m not entirely satisfied with The Age of Adz, and sadly my days as an unabashed Sufjan fan have abruptly come to an end.
The delicate but deceptive lullaby of “Futile Devices” has a melancholy tinge that is a perfect exercise in discretionary emotive folk. The idiosyncratic mantra of “Vesuvius” is not only crazy catchy. But the introspective comparison between Sufjan and the destructive Mt. Vesuvius that laid waste to the great city of Pompeii are cryptic yet well-received.
It combines 2 great things: (1) play on words (Vesuvius and Sufjan) and (2) random historical references. I get the sense that when he says “Sufjan, follow your heart”, The Age of Adz is exactly what he’s talking about. This is partially shot by both critics and lionizers alike. I know, I just blew your mind with that.
I’m all for experimentation and playing with sounds. But you know what? When the only adjective I can think of for a song is ‘grating’, that can’t possibly be a good thing. The listener of The Age of Adz is inundated with a hodgepodge of ridiculous juxtapositions of sounds, from the incoherent “Get Real Get Right” to the Frenchman-meets-twisted orchestra “All for Myself” to the impossibly long and insufferable “Impossible Soul” that clocks in at a measly 25 minutes.
I have to cleanse the palate after this effort. I’m going to queue up TheAvalanche, at least these are B-sides I can deal with.
That said, I’m going to hear Sufjan this week in concert, so here’s to hoping that his effusive stage presence changes things!
Take a listen to The Age of Adz for yourself.
Listen to “Futile Devices”
Listen to “Vesuvius“