Leading up to the release of his first song-based album in five years, it was hard to tell exactly what would happen.
In various interviews Sufjan Stevens mentioned growing tired of his usual instruments and his voice; he expressed concern that the BQE orchestral suite he did for the Brooklyn Queens Expressway sabotaged his mechanical approach to music, and of course the ball was dropped on the massive states project he once spoke of.
Then, without warning, he released the EP All the Delighted People three months before The Age of Adz which was released October 12, and produced eleven tracks including the song “Too Much.”
The Age of Adz (pronounced “odds”) is a welcoming sound. It is everything long time fans have grown to love, minus the acoustic instruments. Where a trumpet or piano may have been played, a synthesizer or sound effect takes its place. There are still organic instruments in the song, but like the album, “Too Much” is loaded with electronic sounds.
There is no doubt that the song is an instant hit, but for new listeners “Too Much” might be just that.
From the beginning to end “Too Much” has a lot going on. Though the constant beat maintains the flow through all the static noise, the instrumentation wanders and is left to the listener’s interpretation after the four-minute mark. Stevens’ characteristically smooth voice keeps the song together, especially in the chorus. The harmonies are one-hundred percent on key and characteristic of previous albums, while the song’s main hook, “There’s too much riding on that. There’s too much love,” is extremely catchy, and sticks permeates the brain immediately.
Stevens also keeps his typical and bizarre structuring of the instrumental sections intact. When the beat disperses a bit and the strings and brass section come back into play, the listener is propelled into a wondrous, almost magic feeling of confusion. As much as some Stevens’ listeners may adore this, others might be moved to shelve the record.
Lyrically, Stevens has abandoned some of his typical long-hand storytelling. However, the music as a whole does not lose touch.
The lyrics fit every bit as well with the music as they would in Illinois or Michigan.
“Too Much,” though arguably a reference to the album as a whole, is some of his best work to date. However, for the disappointed few who would love to see an attempt at the states project, “Too Much” will do a damn, good job of filling the void.