Release Date: Aug 20, 2010
Record label: Asthmatic Kitty
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Chamber Pop
Review Summary: Sufjan rebounds from musical indifference by going completely over the top.Ever since Sufjan Stevens announced his intentions to record an album for all 50 U.S. states, not even the most cynical could question his musical ambition. Though the project was more or less discontinued after Michigan and Illinois, to even think about embarking on such a monumental task seems absurd to the common man, let alone going two chapters into it (with huge critical-acclaim at that).
Over five years ago, Sufjan Stevens' Illinois finally arrived in stores, with Superman stripped off the cover. But since then, he's played Clark Kent, mild-mannered, hiding in plain sight. A brief rundown of how he's stayed on our radar by doing everything except releasing a proper follow-up to Illinois: there was a collection of B-sides and alternate takes from Illinois that was damn near as long (The Avalanche), a boxed set containing five EPs of holiday music (Songs For Christmas), a multimedia celebration of a Brooklyn thoroughfare (The BQE), a 10-minute recording for Dark Was the Night, appearances on the last two National records among other one-offs and guest spots.
At sixty minutes, Sufjan Stevens' All Delighted People hardly qualifies as an EP, but the enigmatic, indie pop superstar has never been one to stick with the format. Book-ended by two distinct versions of the considerable title cut (eleven and eight minutes long, respectively), which is a self-described “dramatic homage to the Apocalypse, existential ennui, and Paul Simon's ‘The Sounds of Silence,” the eight-track set proves successful in melding Stevens’ precious indie folk with the circular, avant/electro-classical persona he adopted for 2009’s ambitious BQE. As per usual, the record is immaculately crafted, but a bit “proggy,” which could serve to disappoint listeners who have been waiting patiently for the artist to return to the engaging, patchwork pop/rock of 2005’s Illinoise.
On his last tour, Sufjan Stevens proudly showcased a plethora of new material that marked a shocking and exciting new direction. Songs like “There’s Too Much Love” and “Age of Adz” suggested, rather inexplicably, the Flaming Lips strolling through the Kid A sessions: buoyant guitar-pop caked with gnarled electronics and skronking horns. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one releasing a massive sigh of relief.
When you’ve captured the hearts of indie boys and girls the world over with ingenious indie-folk paeans to Illinoise, Michigan, swans, life and death, your relationship with God, the Chinese zodiac, the child-like joys of Christmas... when you are the indie darling du jour, when you are Sufjan Stevens, you can do whatever the hell you want. The indie-watching world was taken unawares on Friday by the release of a new EP from the mysterious Michiganite.
I once dated a girl for nearly seven years. In that time, I came to know her dad pretty well. A fellow music nerd, his taste centered on long-form blues, 15-minute-plus epics of red-hot jammin' action. As a boy reared on three-minute punk implosions, we could never totally see eye-to-eye (plus, he hated Michael McDonald; who does that?) And while the girl and I are no longer together, I miss talking to him.
Toying with people’s emotions is a habit reserved only for the most dreaded coves, and given [a]Sufjan Stevens[/a]’ beautiful, heartbreaking back catalogue, we didn’t think he practiced that sort of hot’n’cold tactic. However, as quickly as our hearts nearly exploded when he put up a new, hour-long EP for $5 download last week, they promptly deflated as it transpired to be one of his worst releases to date. The title track is 11 minutes of painfully celestial balladeering self-indulgence, a mess of standard-[b]Sufjan[/b] jittering flutes mixed with the most offensive noise from his best-avoided early electronic period.
The opening moments of new music from Sufjan Stevens is an angelic choir of singers, backdropping the singer-songwriter’s instantly intimate voice. It’s a beautiful way to begin any kind of album, but for something that’s about the apocalypse and “letting go of decisions that I made,” there is no better way to start. After five long years that found everyone and their mom’s blog conspicuously wondering where Stevens had gone (he never fully disappeared in any sense), the All Delighted People EP was presented in a shockingly surprising moment.