Review Summary: Words are just a vehicle used to make our thoughts and feelings know by others, but how accurately can words describe our feelings?
Throughout the history of music there have been songs and albums that are more than just that. Every so often an artist comes along and puts all of themselves into their work and it becomes more than just a song or an album, it’s a piece of them put on display for the world to see. In The Aeroplane Over The Sea and For Emma, Forever Ago are a couple that come to mind, and now you can add Sufjan Stevens’ The Age of Adz to that list.
There’s not much to say about The Age of Adz that hasn’t already been said. From the crazy band teacher angle to the idea that it is proof we have not yet entered the post-modern era, there isn’t another unique spin that can be put on this record. That’s the truly amazing thing about it though. When everything has been said, every angle explored, there’s still the feeling of something more, something that can’t be put into words. I mean Sufjan said it himself, words are futile devices.
One of the things that make this album so amazing is how Sufjan can use the things that he calls futile to such a compelling emotional level. Everyone can connect to at least something he says on this album because he takes the feelings of love, loss and inner struggle, seemingly the concept behind this album, and puts them in a way that everyone can relate to. Whether it be the feeling of failure you can’t escape (“Vesuvius”), the love for someone that you can never show (“Futile Devices”), self-realization (“Now That I’m Older”), or the recollection of a past love gone awry (“I Walked”) we’ve all felt these things before at one time or another. Through questioning himself Sufjan has provided a way to think of all the times that we’ve felt these feelings ourselves.
Sufjan has hit a peak of creativity many musicians will never get to. The Age of Adz is crammed full of textured electronics and layered instruments that keep you dialed in until sadly it comes to an end. Every listen offers a new guitar line or glitchy keyboard note that got lost in the mix in previous listens, and they’re all pieces of a mammoth wall of sound he has created. Songs switch from calming piano lines to all out electronic jams in the blink of an eye, yet never do these drastic switches in sound ever become pretentious, Sufjan does it in such a way that it keeps you wondering what will come next. He knows when to be quiet, when to go all out, and even when to use auto-tune to his advantage. Every track in the mix seems to be very thought out and precise, just listen to the double tracked, speaker panned drums in the first section of the marathon album closer “Impossible Soul”. The vocals in “Now That I’m Older” are some of his best to date and when the song swells into a climax halfway through his soaring vocals are more powerful than ever before and are seeping with emotion. Musically, Sufjan has left no detail untouched or up to chance and it shows.
Words are just a vehicle used to make our thoughts and feelings know by others, but how accurately can words describe our feelings? There isn’t a single word, or group of words for that matter, that can describe the masterpiece that Sufjan has created.