There was a time when Sufjan Stevens had a lot of potential, but now it kind of seems like he’s been around too long without doing much of substance. In that sense, new single “Too Much” is the epitome of Sufjan.
The track starts out promising, with little bursts of tuneless glitch only gradually gaining a beat. And it stays interesting for awhile, as Suf proves that he can use electronica to do what he does best — namely, whine about vaguely intelligible, usually personal fuck-ups in an about-to-cry voice, but still somehow capture listeners with precious multi-part accompaniments and a clear ear for melody. Clearly the guy has oodles of talent in any medium.
But, just like Sufjan’s “50 States” fizzler, the concept dies out quickly — about four minutes in, when listeners will doubtless realize they’ve just spent half the song keyed into the same tired chorus, “There’s too much riding on that,” sung over the same patterns of computer rambling.
Yes, it does eventually build up into a celebration of screechy and fluttery noises coming together in harmony. And yeah, it’s pretty cool how Stevens’s clever woodwind glissandos and string ostinatos and trumpet scale patterns blend into something that’s anything but classical in that final minute-and-a-half.
But is that worth the track’s six (going on seven) long minutes, or is the whole thing about as self-centered as deciding to bestow a personalized album upon every state in the Union?
The latter, definitely. If “Too Much” is any indication for The Age of Adz — slated for release Oct. 12 — then it’s not exactly a leap forward for Sufjan. Instead, it’s like sidestepping the impossible project he officially gave up on last November and not proposing anything in exchange. Sufjan is obviously a stellar musician, but he seems to be too wrapped up in stalled potential.