By Joseph Sutton-Holcomb / Special to The Seattle Times
Sufjan Stevens has always blazed his own trail sonically, and remains an active and vocal commentator in the music community. It’s not a stretch to call him a genius composer and lyricist; his last LP “The Age of Adz” blended symphonic arrangements with liberal scoops of electronica in ways I never thought possible.
But his best attribute is his consistency, and his newest work further cements that reputation. In a not-so-surprising twist, Sufjan has hewn a little further toward a clubby sound with the help of two hip-hop collaborators as verbally and musically meticulous as he is. It’s a supergroup with producer Son Lux and rapper Serengeti dubbed “Sisyphus.” Their only previous work is an EP called “Beak & Claw” they released under the moniker s/s/s.
The self-titled LP, the group’s first full-length, Is the antithesis of a boilerplate party rap album, setting Serengeti’s ironic, overwrought rapping to beats very similar to those he employed in “Adz” — except with a stronger bass backbone that will make visions of Roland TR-808’s dance into listener’s heads. He’s not afraid to mix in his own singing either, which makes the pacing across the record extremely pleasant.
The two best songs bookend the album. The opener, “Calm it down” is a clever critique of traditional hyperviolent hip-hop songs with some marvelously intricate bass drops. The last, “Alcohol” is a jaded appraisal of booze culture in the same vein as Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools.” Also good is “Booty Call” an addictively quirky and shamelessly bouncy cut about halfway in. Glitch-infused beats with lyrics proclaiming “I’ma get a condom, put it on my Mazda”? Apparently Sufjan is done crooning politely about the merits of Midwestern states.