This frankly marvellous treat for the ears has thrown my mental list of the Best Albums Of 2010 into disarray. I am fast falling in love with Sufjan Stevens’ The Age of Adz, an unorthodox but frequently sublime ride through brass bombast, electro glitches and squelches, bleeps and bloops, stately choral sequences, and alternately reverb-drenched and Auto Tuned vocal experiments.
On my first listen, I wasn’t sure whether this was terribly amazing or amazingly terrible, and on a couple of subsequent listens I felt it was an ambitious and impressive piece of work, but I did wonder whether the layers and layers of effects and intricate arrangements were a way of masking sub-par songwriting. I was wrong. The writing is strong and inventive, and amid the sometimes abrasive synth-heavy production there is a real core of beauty. It helps that Sufjan has a gorgeous voice and a way with melody. Before The Age of Adz, his detractors may have had him down as a bit of an indie folk softie. I think with this new album, his first “proper” release for five years, his talent and vision is on show now for all to hear.
It’s still very early days, and I’m still processing the album and its lyrics, but I’m feeling very enthusiastic about this record.