Although I am not a diehard Sufjan Stevens fan, The Age of Adz is tucked somewhere in my list of 10 Most Influential Albums Ever. The memory of getting off a plane and stepping into the freezing cold of the Midwest while feeling anesthetized will always be associated with this album. With scratchy sweaters and a different accent, my ‘t’s more pronounced, my speech less enthusiastic and more curt, i was self-conscious and stingy of each word that I uttered. I had dreamt of America for so long, a place I envisioned to be so in-my-face, so loud, so intrusive in ways that would be stimulating and exciting, that walking right into it felt surreal. The confrontation with a seemingly endless winter left me with a calm static I wasn’t sure how to tame.
That new chapter in my life saw me hesitantly purchasing new lilac sheets and pillows and an assortment of warm clothes I did not know how to assemble or match. I wanted to furnish a new life, yet almost all my new gloves and socks were missing a pair due to my own inability to keep track of them. It felt awkward not to feel my fingers, to have to put on so many layers and carry a huge coat. The first thing I bought for myself in America, ever, was none other than a brand new copy of The Age of Adz. I still remember taking out my coins and green notes, paying for it at the Barnes & Noble in Iowa City and wondering how long music would continue to be the only familiarity for me in a distant land. The album felt like the first friend I made as I listened to it repeatedly during jetlagged-induced car rides in Lena’s old, turquoise Honda Civic.
At least give me the respect of a kiss goodbye. Ah, what a fierce demand to wail out. “I Walked” continued to become a song that has visited many memories during the darker ages of my youth, an anthem that supported the idea of moving onwards headfirst in spite of all the pain inflicted to not just myself, but my loved ones. It reminds me still of the marshes that we always unexpectedly stumble into while growing up, the many mistakes we deliberately make out of comfort, out of temptation, out of fear. I think maybe a lot of my most influential albums seem to echo down this sentiment, but The Age of Adz itself ends on a positive note on wanting to achieve much more together in this long stretch we have ahead of us. The sheer craziness of electronica, strings, and bass in “Get Real Get Right” gets me till this day, not to mention the ridiculous 25-minutes of “Impossible Soul” and how wackily poetic it is.
It’s hard to believe that it has been two years, and that this album has sunk deep beneath many folders and files, a few thoughts away close to being forgotten. How is it that the album itself has such a feel to it that wouldn’t belong in the year 2013? If I hadn’t stumbled upon it by accident today while scribbling in my little brown notebook and watching the rain out of my bleak window, chances are that none of these tunes would have even made it on my recent playlists. Nostalgia is such a distracting emotion, moving inside you in all its funny ways as it tickles some parts and prods persistently at others. I am comfortable now. Sad sometimes, but not beyond the per-usual quota that we all probably feel everyday.
And that’s okay, because we’re cool.