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, Im 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 isnt much through line on the album. No cohesive connection between the songs despite the EPs website describing it as “a dramatic homage to the Apocalypse, existential ennui, and Paul Simons ‘Sounds of Silence.” An album coming from an artist known for clear through lines and solid concepts, its 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 Im missing some deep seeded meaning, but if it is that deep, then its 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 isnt bad. A bit verbose, but Ill accept it. Its Polyphonic Spree-ish, so Ill 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 thats 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. Its just as weird as it sounds. If it doesnt 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. Thats 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 isnt bad), or you can just stream it for free. I would suggest free because I dont feel like youll 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 dont know the answer to those questions. I just know that this EP sounds like a lot of masturbation on quick indie-darling fame.