On August 30th, in a flash of light (and a hasty upload to Sound Cloud) the almighty Sufjan Stevens unleashed his first batch of new material in five years upon the world, and its name is All Delighted People
. Technically an EP, the eight track release clocks in at about an hour play time, but then again he was never very good at being short-winded. Yup, it's epic, it's weird, and it's out now digitally on his label, Asthmatic Kitty.
The bedazzled centerpiece of the record is the title track "All Delighted People" (and its little brother the "classic rock version") which was the unreleased anchor of his fall tour last year. The song, in both carnations, is one of the most anthemic, emotive pieces from Stevens to date. It's also uncharacteristically candid, using Simon and Garfunkel's "Sound of Silence" as a prompt to tackle some of life's more overwhelming concerns. In it, he responds to the iconic 60's classic with a sort of existential shrug, delivering choral soaked lines like "Hello darkness my old friend/ I've come to strangle you in spite of what you'd like". The eleven minute epic crashes and swells in a fit of barefaced reflection, while still maintaining his signature wide-eyed playfulness.
As for the other tracks, "Enchanting Ghost" and "Heirloom" are the most conventional songs on the EP, running as instantly likable folk rock ballads. "The Owl and the Tanager" creeps in and then floats around with a sort of murky Faulkner eeriness, while "From the Mouth Of Gabriel" sounds off like one of Sufjan's trumpeted Christian projects, then halfway though transcends the theological murk with a high and clear melodic shift. The EP closes with a seventeen minute guitar jam entitled "Djohariah" , straight-up Pink Floyd style, rambling and spacey and backlit by disembodied vocals, then in the last five minute stretch, it wiggles into a sleepy folk ballad and wonders off.
In terms of cohesion, it seems pointless to compare All Delighted People
to his past releases. This isn't a new volume in the fifty states project, it's a collection of songs from the road, and it should be approached as such. Like I said before, this EP is weird, but it's what we've come to expect from Sufjan Stevens' banjo-dappled world. And take comfort, we don't have to wait another five years for his next record! Sufjan is slated to release a new LP The Age of Adz in early October. -amelia trask
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Stream: All Delighted People
Sufjan Stevens on Myspace