The Age of Adz (Asthmatic Kitty)

Indie-rock hero Stevens isn't above using Auto-Tune on a song. In fact, on his first album of original material since 2005's Illinois, Stevens doesn't shy away from the unexpected. You don't see it coming after the sweet opener "Futile Devices," but the record swirls with complex, spastic electronic noises. Three minutes into The Age of Adz, the spaceships land and lasers start hitting the walls (Stevens' second album, 2001's Enjoy Your Rabbit, also played around with electro-noise, but without vocals). Stevens adds brass, choirs, and strings to this synth-driven mix, often challenging his fans to open their minds to something a bit busier than the quiet, almost-religious beauty found on the breakthrough Illinois. "Impossible Soul" is a gorgeous mindbender that encapsulates everything the enigmatic singer-songwriter is striving for here: beauty, manic musicianship, creative fusion, and most important, a sort of alienation — both sonic and literal. — Danielle Sills

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