The Age of Adz
As the second song on Sufjan Stevens' The Age of Adz closes, you might be cursing his name for establishing a sound you love and completely abandoning it. Question Stevens, play the album again, but by no means try to ignore how cool the new record is. Stevens' tendency to dress up a song with drifting banjos, strings and horns has been replaced with tunes heavy on glitchy beats, shifty, sequenced synths and — what the fuck? Ah, yes, that is Auto-Tune. The drums sound more hip-hop than folk-pop, and the guitars are more Robert Fripp than finger-picked, and yet, Stevens isn't changing the way he writes songs — the great melodies, the complex instrumentation is still there. What makes this album different is that his overstuffed toolbox has been emptied and then filled with the instruments that craft pop-radio hits. Adz is not a continuation of what Stevens started in 2003's tribute to Michigan, but who needs more of the same if the new is as good? —Tyler Kane
Fright From the Bins
Both Sides Now
Now weighing on your consciousness at a thrift shop near you! After Will Ferrell's boorish caricature of the baritone, it's hard to take anything Tony Award winner Robert Goulet committed to wax seriously. Joni Mitchell's "folk-rock" staple inspired many old-folk cover versions but groovy Goulet wins hands down with his belligerent rendition. Reflective Bob looks at clouds from up and down and still somehow comes away sounding like he might wanna pick a fight with someone. "I really don't know clouds at all!" he bellows. Wanna make something of it? After subjecting yourself to this audio pummeling in stereo, you'll probably re-enact Goulet's same skull-splitting "Both Sides Now" cover pose. Unlike Goulet, however, you're not paying some lackey to go fetch you some Extra Strength Bufferin. —Serene Dominic
Iggy Pop and James Williamson
Kill City hit shelves in 1977, three years after the Stooges had expired. It saw James Williamson and a cleaned-up Iggy Pop step beyond the narrow precepts of punk rock — which rose from the seeds of the Stooges anyway — to create an indie album with a surprising yet loose-limbed songwriting and musical sophistication (which included saxophones, harmonica, slide and acoustic guitars). It upheld Iggy's inner-carnival barker — he was still selling his own personality with that patented self-possession, but he had also mastered the essential rock 'n' roll art of self-mockery: Teen magazines won't let me be/I feel so clean but they're all digging dirt on me.
When Pop's nascent croon and Williamsons' riff-a-rama worked simultaneously, the results stuck in the gut, from the power pop of the title song to the back-alley strut of "Sell Your Love," to the brief, Roxy Music-ish "Night Theme" to the shoulda-been-huge "Consolation Prizes." The weirdly beautiful "No Sense of Crime" is a moody left-turn; Stones-y, like "Moonlight Mile" sideways.
This could be the Stooges sound had they lasted a few more years, even "Johanna" and "I Got Nuthin'" are Williamson-era Stooges hangovers. Though few agree, Kill City was Pop's best record to date song-wise — more restraint and melody, less novelty.
The CD version sounds great — a revisionist remix that clears up the bass cloud and dull thud of the original but stays faithful in tonality. Kudos to mastering engineer Robert Hadley for not compressing the life out of the mix. —Brian Smith
Lil' Wayne nonstop rapper.
Lil' Wayne huge superstar.
Your loose pants and long shirt
look like water running loose.
Your songs are like little trees
trying to grow.
Your voice sometimes squeaky
as a mouse.
Your long hair looks like vines
hanging from a tree.
Your tattoos, all over your body,
like graffiti on an abandoned house.
—Humberto Villarruel, InsideOut Literary Arts Project, 7th grade
Download of the Week
Who's rapper of the year? Milk? Elzhi? Both dope, but nope. Hands down, it's Danny Brown. This dude's nuts, in a Ghostface sorta way; his tacky tales, bullet-point puns, street prophecies and sexcapades will get you. Like crack, first taste is free. — Travis R. Wright