Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz (2010) Album Review

If you happen to be situated somewhere far away from any kind of indie scene like myself, Sufjan Stevens proves to be quite the guilty pleasure.  You should never, by any means, play Sufjan tracks on your stereo when you have metal-head friends in the same room.  Doing so will warrant a disgusted look, followed by comments such as: "what the hell is that shit?".

For someone in my current geographical location, I would deem Sufjan Stevens music as strictly private - one that you should NOT recommend to just anyone, unless you're particularly sure that that someone is as elitist, indie, and as seemingly pretentious as yourself.  Neither should you play Sufjan at parties- though some of the music can be effectively used at parties aimed for children aged 5 and below, and, more appropriately, parties filled with wannabe hippies and supposed artsy people.

That said, and as much as I stubbornly refuse to be called pretentious, I did honestly enjoy Illinois.  I wasn't much into the story telling (although I found the homo-erotic ones worth gossiping about on the internet) but I did enjoy the music in some way.  A lasting memory transports me back to a time when I once longed for the American dream.  A time that I daydreamed about walking the streets of Chicago without having to worry about being stared at for wearing too much clothing (or, similarly, for looking really dope).  A time that I longed for more concrete and less dust, less heat, less beggars, and less abusive drivers. I walk the streets with an entourage, nay- a PARADE! And the centerpiece is me! Balloons balloons everywhere! And the camera frantically swirls around me as the music swells, and then... I orgasm. (Imagine the look on the faces of my metal-head friends.)

That is my definitive Sufjan Stevens experience. I can still force myself to have that experience every time I do listen to the record, but probably without the excessive drama (and the orgy).

As for The Age Of Adz, I am not quite sure where it wants to take me.  First impressions were not good, reminding me of this constant occurrence where I'm lying in bed and I leave the computer on, playing whatever music was on the playlist, while I tried to doze off.  I would then wake up in a panic- thanks to some "sonic jerk"* from some random song.  But the thing is, with this album, I get that same "sonic jerk" even when I'm wide awake.  Mr. Sufjan's new knack for SCATHINGLY LOUD electronics was just not naturally welcomed by my ears.

I want to reinvent myself. So bad.
Time would mildly change that.  It's like a horror movie actually - the more times you watch it, the more you'll get used to that scene where the idiot main character ventures into the attic and you jump out of your seat as the killer comes out of nowhere and shivs the guy repeatedly with a sharp knife.  Likewise, I wonder why Mr. Stevens does the same thing to his music.  He probably hated it so much that he thought he might as well make a mess of it, or maybe it's one of those gimmicks to give it some "abstract feel", like a painter would to a painting (and every other pretentious twat).  But all in all, I think it is deliberate.  He is deliberately destroying his "sound", probably in hopes to reinvent himself.  Commendable at least, but I still don't think it was a good idea.

How so? Simple. Imagine The Age Of Adz sans all the electronics. How much better would that sound? Mr. Stevens even gives us a taste of that momentarily near the end of Impossible Soul! Full band, full choir. That authentic Chicago-like feel that made Illinois extra special.  No wonder why so many people think it's the best track on the album.  But alas, the other songs did not receive the same treatment.

But hey, don't fret.  Ultimately, once you've grown acclimated to the spiking electronics, you'll inevitably begin to notice the many layers underneath it.  The wide array of organic instruments that flows to and fro- even the vocals seem less heavily rendered.  You'll notice that the main character wasn't just stupid- he also wanted to check if his old Nintendo was still in the attic- you just missed that bit the last time because you were covering your eyes.

My score:
5 out of 10

*get it?

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