Artist: Sufjan Stevens
Album: The Age of Adz
Label: Asthmatic Kitty
Release date: October 12 (Today)
Rating (Skip, Stream, or Buy): Buy
Download: "I Walked"
Near the release of mixed-medium art project The BQE in 2007, Sufjan Stevens seemed to be troubled, running out of steam. He admitted the 50 States Project--which brought us Chicago and the memorable Illinois--was mostly a hoax, and seemingly no one (including Stevens himself) had any idea what was to come next. But it's albums like Age of Adz (pronounced "odds") that keep you on your toes, and remind you why Stevens is known more for his artistic audacity than any one particular song or record. Loosely rooted in the imagery of schizophrenic artist and self-described "prophet" Royal Robinson--a Louisiana man who used posterboard and markers to depict visions of his vivid dreams, eccentric monsters and apocalyptic visions--Stevens latest work is not only less rooted in overarching narrative, but more autobiographical and concerned with primal themes of anxiety, love, sex and death. In a word, it's dark. And while fans of his neo-folk efforts might be momentarily put off by a new sound that relies far more on synth than banjo, it would be irresponsible to assume he simply evolved into an electronic artist. The expertly arranged melodies and overarching sense of dramatic thought are proof that Sufjan is still Sufjan.