Tunesday: 18 months into the Age of Adz

Royal Robertson, who inspired the albums title

In October of 2010 Sufjan Stevens released his latest studio album, The Age of Adz. The album is much different than just about anything he had done up to that point. First, musically it was a blend of the electronic music he had experimented with on Enjoy Your Rabbit and his traditional multi-instrument sonic landscapes. Second, the album was free of gimmick or theme. Most of his albums up to this point had some sort of geograpic or thematic centerpiece. As such, the album, by his own description is far more introspective than anything he had ever done, or at least since 7 Swans.

The album became devisive for many fans of Sufjan, and was a particular sticking point for my best friend and I. My best friend is far and away more musically inclined than I am. His name is Rich and he holds 2 masters in Jazz Composition and Jazz Performance. In addition to that he is working on his Doctorate degree in Worship studies. He has an incredible publishing complany focused on bringing musical and liturgical excellence to the Christian community. Check them out here.

Rich thought, in a word, that the Age of Adz was “Junk”. He pointed out that Bon Iver’s self titled album that came out a few months later was the album Sufjan should have made. While I share Rich’s high regard for Bon Iver, I think his take the Adz is off. Way Off.

The first time I listened to Adz, I was shocked. There was far more dissonance than I had come to expect from Sufjan. And more cursing. And yet I was drawn to listen again and again. The album is dark in a way that nothing Steven’s had ever released was. He had shown a talent for making the objectionable palatable. Look at his treatment of the infamous Illinois serial killer, John Wayne Gacy, Jr. Hauntingly beautiful.

And yet this album is an audio exploration of what St. John of the Cross called the dark night of the soul. Sufjan says in the song the Age of Adz:

When I die, when I die
I’ll rot
But when I live, when I live
I’ll give it all I’ve got

Gloria, Gloria
It rots
Victorious, Victorous
It lives in all of us

It reminds me of David Bazan’s album Control in that it is a tragic and dark tale that is haunted by a sovereign God. Both albums seem like someone was able to put the shadowy grace of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories. Take a listen to the album below and share your thoughts.


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About futonreformer

I am a pastor in the PCA serving in Myrtle Beach, SC. I am a sixth generation Tampa native and I love the Rays and Bucs!

One response to “Tunesday: 18 months into the Age of Adz”

  1. Rich says :

    Ok. Let’s talk about who’s way off in his recalling of the conversations surrounding the Age of Adz. First off, I want to clear the air that in no way do I think that anything that Mr. Stevens has written is Junk. I would even for far enough to say that we will see him is some music history books. Where, I don’t know, but his innovation, creativity, and pursuit of diversity with musical styles is reminiscent of late, great Frank Zappa. Furthermore, his specific use of minimalist techniques fused with pop forms certainly seems to make strong enough a case to research his music through a lens of the continuation of thework of Cage, Glass, Adams, and Reich. Third, we both graduated from Hope College. It is strictly impossible for anything remotely close to “Junk” to come out of Hope College. GO HOPE! The man is brilliant, and though I may not prefer his later stuff, I’ll still listen to anything that he creates intently for a larger portion of time.

    More to come…

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