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Sufjan Stevens: The Age of Adz 

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"Sufjan, follow the path - it leads to an article of eminent death."

"Sufjan, follow your heart - follow the flame or fall on the floor."

"Sufjan, the panic inside - the murdering ghosts that you cannot ignore."

So goes "Vesuvius" and the mantra on The Age of Adz, Stevens most primal, explosive, and all-encompassing record to date. From the opening song, "Futile Devices," Sufjan's vulnerable voice both echoes from the record's production and the themes he's dealing with: apologies, finding true love, concerns of future failure, distractions, overcoming demands, aging, death and the divine. It's dangerous, sexy and provocative. The bombastic synthesizers rarely let up, pushing beats, dissonance and shrills without ever abandoning Stevens' trademark melody, fluttering keys and orchestral punches.

Using self-taught apocalyptic artist Royal Robertson as a starting point, Stevens' writing is immensely personal, with gut-level writing instincts holding more weight on Adz than the crafting of a well-penned state song. Stevens' emphasis on broad, primary words enable the record to resonate without his thoughts being misread. Even with Stevens redrawing his boundary lines, it's very evident we still care what he has to say.

By the end of "I Want To Be Well," with background voices repeating the song title, Stevens makes it quite clear he's not screwing around. The raw emotion and color on Adz gives Royal Robertson a respectful nod and poignantly recounts Stevens' steps around relationships and love. The sound is deliberately artificial, but equally human. If an ancient tool, (the adz), is still worthwhile in this technologically savvy age, it only supports the basic of human emotions should be too.

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