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Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz


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The show in Dallas last night reminded me why I like the guy so much even if I'm not smitten with the Adz album. There's an endearing kind of goofiness about him, he's thoughtful and articulate on stage, and he understands what he's there for. The concert solidified my love for the songs I've been enjoying on the album (esp. Age of Adz and Vesuvius), while not necessarily winning me over to those that I'm less enthusiastic about (Get Real Get Right). That said, he chose well. He played, IMO, the best songs on the new album. Further, Sufjan's framing of the album as being a collection of songs about heartache and the end of the world (connecting those two images very closely) makes me more sympathetic to what he's trying to do on Adz. I'm not sure he's always successful at helping us to escape his own navel, but it's clearer to me now that the album is best when he does just that.

All great art is pared down to the essential.
--Henri Langlois

 

Movies are not barium enemas, you're not supposed to get them over with as quickly as possible.

--James Gray

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The show in Dallas last night reminded me why I like the guy so much even if I'm not smitten with the Adz album. There's an endearing kind of goofiness about him, he's thoughtful and articulate on stage, and he understands what he's there for. The concert solidified my love for the songs I've been enjoying on the album (esp. Age of Adz and Vesuvius), while not necessarily winning me over to those that I'm less enthusiastic about (Get Real Get Right). That said, he chose well. He played, IMO, the best songs on the new album. Further, Sufjan's framing of the album as being a collection of songs about heartache and the end of the world (connecting those two images very closely) makes me more sympathetic to what he's trying to do on Adz. I'm not sure he's always successful at helping us to escape his own navel, but it's clearer to me now that the album is best when he does just that.

Did he play Impossible Soul?

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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Did he play Impossible Soul?

Yep, in its entirety. It's pretty important to what he's doing.

And I think the people there got that. We gave him a standing ovation after the performance of that song.

All great art is pared down to the essential.
--Henri Langlois

 

Movies are not barium enemas, you're not supposed to get them over with as quickly as possible.

--James Gray

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The show in Dallas last night reminded me why I like the guy so much even if I'm not smitten with the Adz album. There's an endearing kind of goofiness about him, he's thoughtful and articulate on stage, and he understands what he's there for. The concert solidified my love for the songs I've been enjoying on the album (esp. Age of Adz and Vesuvius), while not necessarily winning me over to those that I'm less enthusiastic about (Get Real Get Right). That said, he chose well. He played, IMO, the best songs on the new album. Further, Sufjan's framing of the album as being a collection of songs about heartache and the end of the world (connecting those two images very closely) makes me more sympathetic to what he's trying to do on Adz. I'm not sure he's always successful at helping us to escape his own navel, but it's clearer to me now that the album is best when he does just that.

I was there last night and enjoyed it immensely. If you were asked by a guy in a brown/tan hat if you needed tickets, that was me. My friends backed out last minute and I ended up only selling one of their tickets. : ( Still worth the $90 bucks I paid!

Highlights for me were Impossible Soul and That Dress Looks Nice On You. This was the third time I've seen him and he has never been as loose or as talkative as he was last night. Someday I will be able to dance like that...someday...

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My wife in general likes Sufjan but can get annoyed by the cacophony described earlier in this thread. She was kind enough to accompany me to the show. She is also (very) pregnant at the moment. Anyway, before the concert started she told me "Tell me when the 25 min. song starts so I know when to go to the bathroom." I thought she'd leave around the 18th time they repeated the line "Boy we can do much more together" but she made it through the whole song.

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The line "There's too much riding on that" does *not* make a good refrain. But he repeats that one about a zillion times in "Too Much." Oh, the irony.

The high points of the album are still pretty high, but the tedious stretches are wearing on me.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I waited for someone else to say this, but I guess no one else is going to. So: is no-one else struck by the apparent homoeroticism of some of these lyrics?

(This not a comment about sufjan personally, just an observation bout the work and its themes. I also should be clear: I approve!)

Edited by Holy Moly!
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I waited for someone else to say this, but I guess no one else is going to. So: is no-one else struck by the apparent homoeroticism of some of these lyrics?

FYI, there's a discussion about this in the comments on Christ and Pop Culture's review of the album.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

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Though to follow up...I guess it's just funny because so much conversation about Sufjan's work in the past has centered on his lyrics while much writing about this album has centered more on his arrangement and instrumentation and compositional choices. And while these songs give us less in the way of coherent narrative, there's certainly a lot there to engage--I am sort of wondering if the fact that the lyrics do center on love, sex, desire in ambiguously homoerotic contexts might explain why it doesn't seem to engage some of y'all on the same levels.

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Though to follow up...I guess it's just funny because so much conversation about Sufjan's work in the past has centered on his lyrics while much writing about this album has centered more on his arrangement and instrumentation and compositional choices. And while these songs give us less in the way of coherent narrative, there's certainly a lot there to engage--I am sort of wondering if the fact that the lyrics do center on love, sex, desire in ambiguously homoerotic contexts might explain why it doesn't seem to engage some of y'all on the same levels.

It's one of the main things I've noticed about the album. I haven't written about it, though. I haven't had a lot of time to listen. Also, it always leads back to "so, is Sufjan gay or what" questions, which I think kind of fall flat. Anyway.

Edited by Joel
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Right. It's not like this is the first time he's written songs that could be interpreted in a homosexual context. I remember there being a lot of discussion concerning "The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us!" on Illinois, primarily because of lyrics such as:

My friend is gone, he ran away

I can tell you, I love him each day

Though we have sparred, wrestled and raged

I can tell you I love him each day

Which struck me as pretty flimsy evidence for Sufjan's sexual orientation if only because so many of his songs are clearly written from the perspectives of different characters. Whose to say he's singing about himself anymore than he's singing about some literary creation of his?

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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Whose to say he's singing about himself anymore than he's singing about some literary creation of his?

Not to mention the fact that saying "I love you" need not have sexual connotations. In "Futile Devices" for example, you aren't going to tell somebody that you have sexual relationship with (or sexual feelings towards) that you think of him as your brother.

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Whose to say he's singing about himself anymore than he's singing about some literary creation of his?

Not to mention the fact that saying "I love you" need not have sexual connotations. In "Futile Devices" for example, you aren't going to tell somebody that you have sexual relationship with (or sexual feelings towards) that you think of him as your brother.

Well if you did, you might remark afterwards that it sounded dumb.

My point though, is not to try to infer anything about the guy personally--he certainly could be writing in character-- but it's for me hard not to interpret him as gently digging out a little room for some conversation about queer love in the context of an ongoing body of work about Christian spirituality. It's sort of Morrisseyesque in its plausible deniability.

Edited by Holy Moly!
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Whose to say he's singing about himself anymore than he's singing about some literary creation of his?

Not to mention the fact that saying "I love you" need not have sexual connotations. In "Futile Devices" for example, you aren't going to tell somebody that you have sexual relationship with (or sexual feelings towards) that you think of him as your brother.

Well if you did, you might remark afterwards that it sounded dumb.

My point though, is not to try to infer anything about the guy personally--he certainly could be writing in character-- but it's for me hard not to interpret him as gently digging out a little room for some conversation about queer love in the context of an ongoing body of work about Christian spirituality. It's sort of Morrisseyesque in its plausible deniability.

I'm with Kevin - that's how I saw that line.Some lines are being blurred on this record.

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Of course it would be reductive to boil the record down to only being about that, and it'd be an awful mistake to trace that one thematic thread and conclude there isn't much else going on, and people who can't relate to that thread aren't going to take much from it. In the same way that I've never had to deal with scheming A&R guys but I'm still endlessly moved by Elliott Smith's "Angeles".

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  • 2 weeks later...

This record is really, really good. I find it extremely unsettling and beautiful. The show was really, really good, too. I went in thinking they were going to be muddling through some weird new songs that would sound bad and fall apart. Quite the opposite. The band was incredible. They had me at opening with a banjo-y "Seven Swans" that cracked open into a scary apocalyptic trombone death march. "Age of Adz" and "Vesuvius" came to life. Even "Impossible Soul," which I did not think would work live at all, was phenomenal.

I'm trying to write about it for image but am failing miserably -- post will be up this week.

This tour is on its way to the south and the east coast. Go to it.

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Should have expected it, but Sufjan + Halloween are two EXTREMELY COMPLEMENTARY flavors. I loved the drummer in the giraffe head. Also, some of the tracks that felt a bit oppressive on Adz get really lightfooted and groovy live.

Edited by KShaw

Everything that matters is invisible.

-- Robert Bresson

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