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Sufjan Stevens – All Delighted People EP

on August 26, 2010, 8:00am
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Let me preface this review by saying I’m not a 100% crazy geek for Sufjan Stevens. I enjoy his music. I admit he’s poetic — an excellent songsmith even — and he’s anthemic, which I tend to enjoy (after all, I’m a huge fan of Meatloaf if you remember correctly). But, I don’t subscribe to his entire catalog, if you know what I mean. It’s just… there to appreciate.

All of that being said, Stevens’ newest release, the All Delighted People EP, is pleasant at best. At its worst, it’s verbose and just shows me that he had some time on his hands, and needed to get these songs out of his system. There isn’t much through line on the album. No cohesive connection between the songs despite the EP’s website describing it as “a dramatic homage to the Apocalypse, existential ennui, and Paul Simon’s ‘Sounds of Silence’.” An album coming from an artist known for clear through lines and solid concepts, it’s a mark down on this album when the concept is shaky and weak. The album is incredibly dense (60 minute EP? Yeah…okay I guess), so perhaps I’m missing some deep seeded meaning, but if it is that deep, then it’s incredibly pretentious so I dislike it still.

The titular track has two versions on the EP. One is an orchestrated, Stevens-esque version that opens the EP. It isn’t bad. A bit verbose, but I’ll accept it. It’s Polyphonic Spree-ish, so I’ll forgive it. The other is a noodling, genre-jumping, over written “classic rock” version that drops in every style Stevens has dabbled in. A folky beginning followed by a choral chorus followed by a random electronica glitchy keyboard tossed in at random coupled with a high, distorted guitar solo. My initial reaction, and subsequent reactions, to the keyboard were the same: “Wait…what?” One of the appeals to Stevens’ work is that more often than not there is excitement in waiting to see where he goes next musically – usually within the same song. But in this instance it’s not a welcome shift.

There is also the 17+ minute closing song “Djohariah” that’s opening is a five-and-a-half minute Pink Floyd breakdown complete with a female backing chorus and soaring guitar solo. The song then morphs into a choppy, computer stop-start guitar solo for a little while. Just for fun I guess? Then it closes the final five or so minutes with a “proper” folk guitar song. It’s just as weird as it sounds. If it doesn’t sound weird, well rest assured it is.

Outside of the bad, there are a few moments on the EP that are pleasant. “Enchanting Ghost” and “Heirloom” have some catchy moments and choruses. That’s about all I can say. Like I said… pleasant at best.

The upside to this EP is that you can either pay $5 to download it from the website Stevens has set up ($5 for 60 min of music isn’t bad), or you can just stream it for free. I would suggest free because I don’t feel like you’ll want to it more than once or twice before you give up on it. Has Stevens lost it? Did he have it? Is this album him just settling? I don’t know the answer to those questions. I just know that this EP sounds like a lot of masturbation on quick indie-darling fame.

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