By: Tori Eberle
A few weeks ago, Sufjan Stevens supposedly shocked the music world by announcing a North American tour after years of what seemed to be inactivity. Gone from plain sight but not forgotten completely, the Detroit native has actually been busy the past few years collaborating with acts such as The National and performing as a back-up vocalist with them on Letterman.
Instead of releasing a new album along with announcing the tour dates, Stevens did something else unexpected: he released an EP so extensive that it might as well be considered a full length album. However, it remains yet unclear as to whether All Delighted People is a preview of things to come with Stevens’s anticipated Age of Adz album or if it’s just more of the good old stuff from albums like Illinois and The Avalanche.
The EP centers around two versions of the title track, “All Delighted People.” The first version (parenthetically labeled as the “original version”) reflects Stevens’s tendency toward spiritual allusions (mainly due to the fact that he sounds like he’s preaching to a choir.) With his voice heavenly and light, Stevens sings of disguises and loneliness for eleven minutes and thirty eight seconds. The song’s title references “delighted people” but the song itself is actually haunting and reminiscent of Leonard Cohen’s original version of “Broken Hallelujah.”
The second version, labeled parenthetically as the “classic rock version” reminds one of the good old Stevens’s songs, “Casmir Pulaski Day” and “For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti.” A much more upbeat version, it serves as a reminder of what made us all love Sufjan Stevens in the first place. Trumpets and twangy guitar replace the melodramatic choir from the original version.
The last song of the EP, “Djohariah,” keeps up with the classic rock tone from the second version of “All Delighted People.” Seventeen minutes and three whole seconds long, it almost fools you into thinking it’s just a guitar instrumental with a choir singing in the background. The song changes pace a few times throughout, as should probably be expected with seventeen minutes worth of music. About twelve minutes into the song, Stevens serenades with actual lyrics about a woman whose heart has been broken. Stevens’s urges her that “all the fullness of the world” is hers and that she needs to live on despite hardships. Clapping and the repetition of the woman’s name “Djohariah” accompany Sufjan Stevens’s lyrics about the beauty of the world and the importance of embracing it.
A little long-winded and more than way past overdue, All Delighted People gives a taste of Stevens’s sleepy yet spiritual sound but also leaves room for what is in store with Age of Adz due to be released this October.