Matt Crowley/ The AS Review
Wanting…The Age of Adz by Sufjan Stevens
Five years is a long time. Five years ago, most of us were in high school, there was no black president and Lady Gaga was still kickin’ it at NYU. Five years ago, Sufjan Stevens released Illinois, not only his arguably greatest work, but one of the best albums of 2005, a sprawling and ingenious semi-concept album. We all hoped Stevens would continue his 50-state project, no matter how impossible it seemed (Washington? Please?), but a couple years later, not only did we not have another state-based album to look forward to, but Stevens had seemingly gone AWOL. Besides a few collaborations (and an incredible Christmas album) we were left Sufjan-less. If he wasn’t so damn good at what he does, we all would have forgotten about him.
Fast forward to August of this year.
By that point, we had all given up hope that Stevens would continue his states project, and were really looking for something, anything. In an interview with the publication Signal to Noise in 2009, Stevens said, “[T]he physical format itself is obsolete; the CD is obsolete and the LP is kinda nostalgic. I'm wondering, 'What's the value of my work once these forms are obsolete and everyone's just downloading music?'"
It was an interesting thought, albeit a troubling one. When would we see Stevens again, hear his angelic voice, follow along with every delicately arranged note? Is he going to go Radiohead on us? Or Dave Chappelle for that matter?
None of the above. A scant month-and-a-half before its release, we learned that yes, Stevens does have a new album and no, it’s not titled Rock n’ Rhode Island. It’s The Age of Adz, and it’s here, and it’s wonderful.
Those looking for songs like “Decatur,” and “Casimir Pulaski Day,” might be a little disappointed. Sufjan is still Sufjan, layering that voice of his under and over each verse and chorus, but where light and fluffy guitar arrangements once stood, buzzing, fidgety tracks are now at home. A lot of people, including yours truly, weren’t quite sure what to make of this new Sufjan Stevens when his first track, “Too Much,” was released around the same time the album was announced. It’s undeniably Sufjan; the man knows how to arrange a song. But by retooling his sound for one album, like Kanye West did with 808s and Heartbreak, we aren’t only treated to something we’ve never heard out of him, but something we’ve never heard, period. It makes for a fulfilling listen, and even after the 25-minute track “Impossible Soul” closes out the album, you’re only going to want more. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another five years.
Waiting…My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West (Nov. 22)
Speaking of Kanye…I’m not going to lie, I was really hoping he would go with his original title for this album, Good Ass Job, which would have been great to see on the shelves at Everyday Music. Unfortunately that’s not the case, but it really doesn’t matter. From what I’ve heard from this album, it’s going to be incredible. His 2008 release 808s and Heartbreak was a good record, one that let us see Kanye in a different, if tortured, light. In the end, however, I think a lot of us were hoping he’d go back to the bangers that made him one of the best MCs alive, which he is. If you haven’t, go listen to “Power” or the Bon Iver sampling/collaborating track “Lost in The World,” and get excited. Kanye’s back!
Tron: Legacy Soundtrack Daft Punk (Dec. 7)
Okay, okay, not really a new album, but any time Daft Punk releases something, it’s worth checking out. The duo hasn’t released anything major since 2005’s Human After All or their 2007 live album that proved they can still headline massive shows. It’s not clear if Guy-Manuel do Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter have another Discovery left in them, or if they even plan on making any more albums (Just last year, friends and fellow Frenchmen Justice announced they had no plans to make another record.). What we do know is that Tron: Legacy will be epic and loud, whether in or out of the movie theater.
Wishing…??? by Bon Iver
Anyone who enjoyed Justin Vernon a.k.a. Bon Iver’s debut, For Emma, Forever Ago, has to be excited about recent rumors that the singer-songwriter is working on his next album. Vernon has certainly had his hands full since he burst onto the scene in 2007, recording songs for the Twilight movies and collaborating on the previously-mentioned Kanye West tracks. Thankfully, For Emma, Forever Ago provided us plenty of material to listen to and pick apart for the last three years, and it’s comforting to know he will be returning to his do-it-yourself recording studio for his next work. A late 2011 release is likely.