While Seven Swans, Michigan, and Illinois were likable at first listen, The Age of Adz takes a little more effort to love. On Sufjan's new record, he ditches the easy-going melodies and delicate instrumentals for a harsher, more electronic approach. You might have guessed this was where he was headed after hearing Traffic Shock from The BQE, or maybe after noticing the ambitious leap he took from Michigan to Illinois, but most likely, you didn't.
Now, I've listened to this album a few times, and I've gotta say, I was very torn at first, and still am. On one hand, Sufjan has made a great electronic album with more ambitious vocals and the same intimate lyrics. On the other, it's missing a good deal of the hooks that made his previous albums to terrific. Also, when listening to it, I can't help but think of the softer songs from Illinois and Michigan, and my good feelings for the album get slightly diminished. It also makes the listening experience for me a little more uncomfortable.
Although most of what I'm saying is negative, the album opens very nicely with the delicate melody of Futile Devices, which reminds me of old Sufjan the most. There are some other excellent songs here as well; The epic title track has some very complimenting and extremely adventurous orchestral work, Too Much and Get Real Get Right are both very catchy and in-your-face, and most of the 25 minute Impossible Soul is genius.
I like The Age of Adz more than I did at first, which is advice for you. Don't immediately reject it, it might take some time to get used to. Give it a try.