On-the-spot review: Sufjan Stevens releases new EP to ‘All Delighted People’ today

08.20.10 9 years ago 5 Comments

When Sufjan Stevens announced his epic theater tour for this fall, we estimated that an album may be on the way.  

That wish has been granted, as the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter has released a new EP, “All Delighted People” today. As in now.
The eight-track set is streaming and for sale now on Bandcamp, which is a fantastic choice for digital retail. I use it constantly — it”s streamlined, no frills programming, and puts money directly into the pocket of its artists/labels. The set goes up for sale on all other digital stores on Aug. 23 (for those iTunes purists). The Asthmatic Kitty press release says it will be pressed on CD and vinyl for sale later this year — merry Christmas.
“Delighted” is Stevens” first “song-oriented” album since 2006″s “The Avalanche: Outtakes & Extras from the Illinois Album.”
The 11:38 title track is, just, wow. It”s a “dramatic homage to the Apocalypse, existential ennui, and Paul Simon”s ‘Sounds of Silence,”” and borrows a couple lyrics from that latter track. I dare say, Stevens has got soul. He allows for his normally tranquil tenor to stray all over the scale, even crack on a couple notes. “All Delighted People” also gets a “classic rock” redux on track six.
His voice gets doubled by an electric on the enchanting “Enchanting Ghost” while “The Mouth of Gabriel” gets cute with what sounds like a series of toy instruments and feet marching place, some back-tracked synths and a flute line that”s straight from a Jonsi song. The sweetly creepy “The Owl and the Tanger” has been a “mainstay” at his live shows, but makes a recorded debut here. It”s nuanced, to say the least, with a muted, simple piano line, a harmony on the third and some emotional outpouring that reminds me of “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” only with more autobiography.
As for “Arnika”: if this were a vinyl record, itwould be an excellent first track on a B-side. It”s got a mish-mash of imperfect finger pickings and flitting banjo. “Could I have it all/Could I have you for a night in the warmth of your bed… I”m tired of life.” Then a creak of a chair. What the hell, why not. Then there”s a 17-minute track, “Djohariah.” It”s mostly wordless up until about 11:40. And it”s got wah pedal all over it.
So this is what the workshopping was all about.
Considering the girth of at least a pair of songs, plus the scale of sound that”s explored in a scant eight tracks, I”d say $5 is a pretty good deal for this “EP.” It”s a sign, too, of the broad brush Stevens will be painting with on his grand theater tour, one of the top stints this fall. 
The composer mostly worked on promoting his “BQE” film-music project last year. Happy to hear he”s back to laying down songs like these.
But since the songs are available now, it”s best you get your hands on it and give it your own spin. What do you think of “All Delighted People?” And are you going to pay the $5 for it?
Here is the tracklist for “All Delighted People”:

1. All Delighted People (Original Version)
2. Enchanting Ghost
3. Heirloom
4. From the Mouth of Gabriel
5. The Owl and the Tanager
6. All Delighted People (Classic Rock Version)
7. Arnika
8. Djohariah

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