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Sufjan Stevens: All Delighted People EP

by on September 7, 2010

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7.8/10

Since the release of the best-selling album, Illinois, in 2005, Sufjan Stevens has been keeping a pretty low profile. He released a few albums, a few EPs here and there, and played on The National’s latest record, but has kept himself pretty quiet. And then suddenly, here comes All Delighted People, an EP (seemingly from out of nowhere) that pulls from his old material, but shows off a new side of Sufjan; a side that will surely be evident on his upcoming album, The Age of Adz, due out in October.

Just looking at the amount of material on the album, one can easily become dumbfounded about this record’s identity. Yes, it’s called an EP, but it is an hour long. The majority of albums that come out today aren’t even an hour long. In my opinion, it’s considered an EP because of the fact that it is a collection of material that Stevens has had in his private collection for years. These tracks never seemed to fit on any full-length album of his, thus he decided to slip them all on one record.

The album is built in an interesting way. Tracks two through seven are nestled in between two phenomenal – and much longer – tracks. The first track off of the album, as well as the title track, is simply great. It starts off as a psychedelic rock anthem, quite reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s “Atom Heart Mother”, as a matter of fact. It features a chorus, a full horn section, the whole nine yards. But unlike “Atom Heart Mother”, Stevens spectacularly incorporates moments of off-beat notes and odd time signatures to highlight spiritual vocals. The song climaxes many times, but these moments of greatness never last for long. Right as one part does just about all it can do, says all it can say, Stevens brings in a new section with a completely different feel. And while these new sections may come with new instrumentation or rhythms, they come with the same lyrics that have been sung throughout the rest of the song. It is this familiarity that pushes “All Delighted People” forward as one of Stevens greatest songs he has ever penned.

The album continues with songs that are more on the folk/rock side. Songs like “Enchanting Ghost”, “Heirloom”, and “Arnika” are all based around simple acoustic guitar. While they are all enjoyable, and at times even catchy, none of them stand out as fantastic songs. “From the Mouth of Gabriel”, however, with its slightly bigger instrumentation, is an inspiring and beautiful song. This track and “The Owl and the Tanager” even show a little bit of electronic influences: a genre that Stevens has flirted with for a long time. The ending track, “Djohariah”, is a fantastic mostly-instrumental track. Of its seventeen minutes, the first twelve contain only one word, “Djohariah”. Following a familiar formula to the quickly changing “All Delighted People”, “Djohariah” suddenly enters an acoustic section at twelve minutes. It quickly combines with synthesizers and familiar vocals to bring the song to a dramatic, but soft, close.

If these tracks are what Sufjan Stevens has kept to himself for all this time, then – and I speak for many people – we certainly cannot wait to see what Stevens does with his next album in October.

-Flow

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