Sufjan Stevens, "The Age of Adz"
Listeners who fell in love with Sufjan Stevens for his rustic Americana sound, Christian undertones or ambitious "50 states" project are in for a rude awakening with his latest album, "The Age of Adz." Stevens followed 2005's expansive folk journey "Illinois," arguably one of the best albums of the '00s, with one of this year's weirdest albums: "The Age of Adz" is introspective, offbeat and swamped in electronics. The song "I Walked" matches Stevens' hushed songwriting with crinkled beats and echoing vocals, while "Vesuvius" builds a wall of blips and brass notes around a straightforward piano line. Stevens sounds most comfortable in his latest aesthetic when his fragile voice isn't drowned out by unruly instrumentation, as heard on the gorgeous opener "Futile Devices" and the woozy "Bad Communication." "The Age of Adz" pales in comparison to Stevens' past acoustic masterpieces, but considered on its own terms, the set offers an intriguing take on electro-folk.