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Album Review

Sufjan Stevens, 'The Age of Adz'

October 11, 2010

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Casual fans looking to prolong the artful mellow of the gently plucked art-folk and strutting orchestral pop the precious singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens laid down on previous records might be lulled into a false calm as this record opens. “Futile Devices’’ is a characteristic hazy folk sketch of bashful offered love. Once that bit of old business is dispensed with, the eclectic Stevens says “just kidding’’ and sets about tackling the record’s real focus: everything else, ever. The following track, “Too Much,’’ is built on a chop and paste found-sound percussion loop undergirding a video-game synth riff that seems designed to maximize the discordance with Stevens’s soft-pop vocal self-harmonizing. It sounds like someone searched for the quickest route from Flaming Lips Boulevard to Prefuse 73 Street on Google Maps and crashed the car along the way. And that’s hardly the oddest excursion here. That distinction has to go to the 25-minutes-plus “Impossible Soul,’’ a vessel into which Stevens empties the contents of his kaleidoscopic imagination in a towering edifice to musical schizophrenia. That song, like the record in total, seems more an info-dump than a unified whole; but for an artist who’s made thematic through-lines his gimmick, even that mess somehow seems part of a grand narrative design. (Out tomorrow). LUKE O’NEIL

ESSENTIAL “Too Much’’

Sufjan Stevens plays the Orpheum on Nov. 12.