The Age of Adz (Sufjan Stevens)

Album Rating: 9.5.10


Futile Devices:  The album opens up with a sweetly picked calm melody softly introducing you to the album.  As Sufjan’s voice comes through, it seems as though the album will be another Seven Swans, filled with acoustic songs about characters in the bible.  Until his last line comes across:

But you are life I needed all along
I think of you as my brother
Although that sounds dumb
And words are futile devices

Closing the song with the words “futile devices” gently whispered in your ear, leaves you waiting in anticipation for the next masterpiece. 8.5/10

Too Much:  Then, you are hit with electronic sounds that sound jumbled together.  It’s as if Sufjan is trying to portray that the words we use, just get jumbled up anyway.  This is a theme throughout the album, but is repeated in this song.  This very electronic based sound claims that there is “too much riding” on those three words; I love you.  Thus begins the long list of songs that beautifully exceed 5 minutes.  His layering on these songs with electronic, orchestral, and vocal tracks shows his true genius.  The way he puts together these tracks into a perfect project reminds me a lot of his Illinois album with songs like “Come on! Feel the Illinoise.”  It is so incredible how these electronic tracks would just sound like noise by themselves, but when accompanied by the flutes and brass section, it fits so beautifully. 9/10

Age of Adz:  This is one of the strangest songs on the album; especially the epic opening.  Here, Sufjan’s voice seems to be reaching for the notes rather than owning them.  It’s strange to hear his voice like this, but I believe it has meaning to the song.  This song revolves around eternal life and the afterlife or lack thereof.  It’s very vague because he tries to encompass the living and the dead.  In the bridge(s) Sufjan takes the song to new levels, saying

I’ve lost the will to fight
I was not made for life

and

For my intentions
Were good intentions
I could have loved you
I could have changed you
I wouldn’t be so
I wouldn’t feel so
Consumed by selfish thoughts

Overall, it’s a beautiful song that really questions what we’re here for. 8/10

I Walked:  This song shows the heavy electronic influence that Sufjan has on this record.  Once again Sufjan uses his voice along with beautiful harmonious choruses to create an incredible song.  The words about a “loveless life” and claiming he’s “already dead,” show the intense emotion that Sufjan portrays in this song.  9/10

Now That I’m Older:  This song begins with a beautifully dark chorus of ooh’s and ah’s backed by piano.  Then, Sufjan’s distorted voice comes in, reverberating off the walls.  This song just gives off the feeling of being older and deeply and solemnly reflecting on your life.  8/10

Get Real Get Right:  On Get Real Get Right, Sufjan jumps back into the electronic beats backed by flute melodies.  This song is said to be a tribute to the artist who created the album artwork, Royal Robertson, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.  Sufjan was very moved by this man, and wrote this song in remembrance of him.  It’s a pretty song, but one of the weakest lyrically.  7/10

Bad Communication:  This is probably the strangest song on the album.  The strange electronic sounds seem out of place and the lyrics are not very strong.  Although Sufjan is normally incredible at layering the tracks, incorporating all different instruments, this song does not show his talent. 6.5/10

Vesuvius:  This is quite possibly the prettiest song on the record.  Perhaps it’s the use of harmonies that make this song so remarkable.  And the strange synth lead solos are perfect.  However, when you see the lyrics, it seems a little depressing.  But it’s not unlike Sufjan to create a beautiful song out of a horrible tragedy. (John Wayne Gacy, Jr.) 9.5/10

All for Myself:  All for Myself seems to be very selfish, but with the way they sing the chorus, it seems to be rallying.  Another perfect contradiction.  Very nice addition to the record and it fits well. 8.5/10

I Want To Be Well:  This has been my favorite song from the album for quite some time.  It largely deals with some physical ailments that Sufjan was struggling with.  It is very intense, with a very fast tempo and strong bass.  However, the song is split into two parts.  The first part, deals with the struggle of the illness and, in the breakdown, Sufjan gives his humble request of, “I want to be well.”  This is repeated to emphasize his desire for it until, finally, he gets to the point where he feels the need to tell us that he’s “not fuckin’ around.”  This is probably my favorite part of the song; not only because I love the way he sings it, but because I think it’s beautifully controversial that a Christian artist is so comfortable with the word “fuck.”  It shows that he hasn’t lost touch with reality and is comfortable with the fact that we’re all messed up. 10/10

Impossible Soul:  This song is interesting.  It is 25 minutes and 35 seconds long, but it’s split into almost five equal parts; which makes you wonder why it isn’t five separate songs.  The first part, probably my favorite, is gentle and slow with some great lyrics:

Woman, I was freaking out because I want you to know
My beloved, you are the lover of my impossible soul

Then a distorted guitar comes in with an incredible solo, which establishes Sufjan’s realization that this perfect love for the impossible soul is not real. This leads into the second part where we are questioned, “do you want to be afraid/alone?”  Then, comes the third part, which is probably the least expected from Sufjan.  He actually auto tunes his voice for this portion with a very soft background.  He refers to the “stupid man in the window,” which may mean himself because this album is so deeply personal.  This flows into the fourth part of the song, which is the most upbeat few minutes on the album.  Sufjan says:

It’s a long life, better pinch yourself
Put your face together, better stand up straight
It’s a long life only one last chance
Couldn’t get much better, do you wanna dance?
It’s a good life, better pinch yourself
Is it impossible? Is it impossible?
Boy, we can do much more together
(Better get it right, get it right, get it right, get it right)
It’s not so impossible

This is a very fun part of the song, but the last part of the song is somber but hopeful.  Overall, this is a great song, but quite long.  You should check it out (along with the rest of the album) and let me know what you think! 9/10


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