Pillbox

Indie icons release records

Sufjan Stevens performs in Barcelona in 2006. (credit: Courtesy of AndyP. on flickr) Sufjan Stevens performs in Barcelona in 2006. (credit: Courtesy of AndyP. on flickr)

These past two weeks were exciting ones for those music enthusiasts who have been tracking the most recent album releases on the indie music scene. With new albums from veterans like Michigan-born singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens and the influential Glasgow indie-pop band Belle and Sebastian, there has recently been plenty of new music to listen to and critique.

Sufjan Stevens — Age of Adz

After the release of his third album, Michigan, in 2003, famed American singer-songwriter Stevens unveiled to his fans his intent to record 50 albums in his lifetime, one for each state within the United States. Though the musician’s ultimate goal may have changed in its specifics, the founding idea behind this artist, his love for creating new music, remains unchanged. In a feat undeniably impressive for any musician, mid-October marked the release of Stevens’ newest album, The Age of Adz, bringing the total number of albums created by Stevens to 10.

Though this newest album includes sounds and characteristics that are undeniably “Sufjan,” there are aspects of this album that seem to set it apart. Stevens has always been praised for the quirky qualities of his songs, including references to historical figures and detailed pictures of American culture within his lyrics. In this new album, Stevens seems to be focusing less on external ideals and more on the processes of his own mind — and listeners are loving it. Possibly the most talked-about song on The Age of Adz is the album’s final track, “Impossible Soul,” which at around 25 minutes comprises nearly one-third of the entire album. This song, though described by One Thirty BPM reviewer Rob Hakimian as a bit “bloated,” is an epic proclamation of love that brings listeners along on its bold journey.

While reviews of the album have been mixed, the consensus remains mostly positive. In his 10th album, Stevens has reached outside of his norm to create an 11-track album that allows listeners a glance into the inner mind of this indie-folk superstar.

Belle and Sebastian — Write About Love

Having originally formed in 1996, it’s no surprise that Belle and Sebastian have been able to release a total of eight albums throughout their career. Their most recent album, Write About Love, released in mid-October, is the first thing listeners have heard from the group since The Life Pursuit, released right before Belle and Sebastian took a five-year break.

As a group, Belle and Sebastian have been referred to as a relatively one-man show, headed by Stuart Murdoch, the main singer and front man of the group. The greatest thing about this album, and what really sets it apart from the band’s past albums, is that several of the tracks feature not only the various members of Belle and Sebastian, but also several guest artists.

While the album has been well-received in the typical Belle and Sebastian fashion for its elegant melodies and detailed song-writing, if you’re a fan of the group’s classic sound, be prepared for something entirely new. The songs on this album are obsessively cheery in subject and tonality. While most would assume this sound to get old fast, surprisingly it doesn’t. There is something about the album that, though pop-oriented, is incredibly enjoyable. It’s exciting to see this iconic group expand its repertoire and venture into some uncharted musical territory.