It's been a great year to be a Sufjan Stevens fan. In a 51 week stretch he has released just under 3 hours of music in three works.
First there was the BQE, in which he broke out of his normal form and made a sort of updated Rhapsody in Blue.
In August there was an hour long EP, All Delighted People, which is practically an abridged album. It's back to his normal fare, but having taken a step forward. The thing that stood out to me was that compared his previous stuff, he's now much more upfront vocally, perhaps more confident.
Released almost a month ago is the new album, the Age of Adz. Due to timing in the lab, I didn't get around to listening to it until about a week and a half ago. At first I managed to listen most of the way through and just put it down. I felt neutral about it. It starts off pretty normal, but then gets electronic.
A few days later I had some time and listened to it with headphones and it came through and I got it. Check this out:
Well, not literally--I'm not quite sure what it's about exactly. Instead of relaying stories in the context of and about a state, to me it sounds like he's talking to himself and people close to him to sort things out and move on which builds up to an excellent climax in the final third of the album, 25.5 minute long song.
It's pretty interesting. It's electronic, but in a way I want to describe as 'dirty electronic'. It's definitely not pulsing or glossy like dance music and it's not raw bleeps and bloops with voice like Thom Yorke. It's sort of like varying degrees of electronic scrambles on top of the organic 'band class' sound; he's doing something similar to his normal thing with an extended palette of electronic sounds.
At this point, I like the EP better than the LP. It's easier to listen to--for one thing the album is 75 minutes long. Both are good, of course.
Some reviews point out that the album is a little too unbounded and that he threw in everything and the kitchen sink. There's even a part with autotuning (which turns out, sounds fine when a musician I like does it). That point is valid, if it were tighter it would definitely have a shot at being something like a Kid A.
A final thing worth pointing out is that I definitely like how Stevens is a musican who grows. I suppose for some reason I group him and Andrew Bird together in particular and to me Bird seems to be in a perpetual quest to capture the Bird sound (which by no means is a bad thing) whereas Stevens tries new things out and advances.