2006: folk was big, I was 13 and Sufjan Stevens released his last proper album. It’s been ages since we last heard anything new from our favorite Christian mid-west singer, but now, in a seemingly complete surprise, Sufjan has released his All Delighted People EP. An eight song, 60 minute release is somewhat familiar to listeners of the band, with the same style that has characterized Stevens for years, only with an added touch.
The opening title track begins with angelic choirs surrounding Sufjan’s sweet voice, with orchestrations gradually picking up more and more over this 11 minute track. Eventually a tremolo plagued guitar and a jazzy, cymbal filled drum line picks up with the occasionally synth-esque noise joining the increasingly large sound. The sound drops out, but only for a short time before a “Day in the Life” sounding orchestral freakout gathers to a Simon and Garfunkel homage “Hello darkness, my old friend/it breaks my heart.” The same idea continues throughout the song, become more larger and grandeur. It reminds me of a combination of his last two major projects, Illinoise and The BQE, a classical music suite. Overtime the tracks get noisier, and perhaps a bit more lo-fi. “Go to Sleep”-esque guitar work (via Radiohead) gathers up even in the most angelic parts, while time signature cymbal smashing leads to the climax.
“Enchanting Ghost” sounds very akin to the Illinoise track “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” at first, with slightly less macabre lyrics, with added piano and blues guitar for some added sparkle. “Heirloom” takes a sort of country-esque guitar part and adds wonderful harmonies, complete with reverb and delay. A delightful little late summer jam.
“Mouth of Gabriel” sounds a bit more tortured [probably thanks to Sufjan’s friendship with The National] but adds a poppy sounding chorus. It sounds like a bit more developed then Seven Swans, complete with bubbling synthesizers in the chorus.
After his first released, he drew comparisons to Elliott Smith for his attention to emotions in his songwriting. Nowhere is this more evident then the 5th track, “The Owl and the Tanager,” described as a “live show mainstay.” Sufjan swoons over a gentle piano line, “In 7 hours, I considered death/And your father called me ‘you little boy, you little boy.” This one’s my personal favorite.
The next one is a re-do of the title track, with the suffix of (classic rock version). It’s filled with banjos and a gentler Sufjan voice, with slighty less grandeur then the original version. Very “Chicago”-esque [how many Illinoise references can I make]. The penultimate track “Arnika” is of the same spirit, sans as much banjo, with more guitar.
Complete with wah-wah guitars and horns a la Issac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft,” closing track “Djohariah” is described as a “17-minute guitar jam-for-single-mothers” brings a different style to the table then the previous tracks, but at this point, shouldn’t we expect that from Mr. Stevens?