The folk traveler, once consumed with chronicling history, has created something modern.Â
In â€œThe Age of Adz,â€ Sufjan Stevensâ€™ first real album since 2005â€™s â€œIllinois,â€ he has created something more abstractÂÂâ€“â€“a schizophrenic work of art.
The elements Stevens mastered on â€œIllinoisâ€ are still thereâ€“â€“the twirling flutes, the legions of horns, gentle guitar and his pure voiceâ€“â€“but they lie haunting under a blanket of electronic samples and glitchy synthesizers.
In 2005, Stevens claimed to be undertaking a project to create a series of albums on each of the 50 states.Â Although this project seems to be lying in the dust now, his ambition is still as strong as ever on â€œAdz.â€Â
Stevens is a masterful composer.Â And in â€œAdz,â€ he makes that clear by creating mountains of sound and worlds to get lost in.Â He combines the real and the strange into a beautiful harmony.
Itâ€™s an album of introspection into the mind and a compilation of human emotion.
The album chronicles love, mortality, loss and faith in moody waves told by a tortured oracle.
â€œIf I was a different man, if I had blood in my eyes,â€ sings Stevens in â€œToo Muchâ€ over an electro beat complete with his signature orchestra and angelic coos.
On the albumâ€™s title track, Stevens reaches his perfect harmony of the chaotic and the tranquil.Â â€œWhen I die Iâ€™ll rot, but when I live Iâ€™ll give it all Iâ€™ve got,â€ he sings.
In the song, his darker side comes through, as it builds from an orchestral march and lapses into a guitar trickle and Stevens whispering, â€œI could have loved you, I could have changed you.â€
His lyrics have never been so personal. He even goes as far as to refer to himself in â€œVesuvius,â€ singing, â€œSufjan follow the path, it leads to an article of eminent death.â€
â€œAdzâ€ concludes with a mind-blowing 25-minute epic called â€œImpossible Soul.â€
The song wafts through phases of thought complete with gang vocals, harps, a dance portion and surprisingly auto-tuned vocals.
Although â€œImpossible Soulâ€ is an experience on its own, it tends to stumble on its own genius at times.
Despite occasional missteps, Stevens has returned with a beautiful mess that cannot be forgotten.
Entertainment Editor Matt Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.