Sufjan Stevens has never been one to shy away from pulling on emotional strings. But it’s clear on the album opener and title track that these strings he’s pulling have quite a strain on him as well. His voice has never sounded so pained, and this makes for a wonderfully dramatic way to begin. According to its website, All Delighted People is “a dramatic homage to the Apocalypse, existential ennui, and Paul Simon’s “Sounds of Silence.” Three lofty entities to homage, but Stevens, who earlier in his career set out to make an album for each state (so far only Michigan and Illinois) doesn’t mind being overly ambitious.
Stevens’ 2005 Illinois was an absolute masterpiece. For being so obsessed with an album, I didn’t see much to follow with Stevens after that. However All Delighted People finds him returning to form. Swirling horns and percussion, delicate songwriting and gorgeous melodies are all present here. What’s also exciting, is that though only 8 songs, this album is about an hour long, with Devendra Banhart/Crazy Horse-style closer, “Djohariah” clocking in at 17 minutes. It seems as if Stevens has something to prove after his pseudo, post-Illinois haitus; he has also announced the LP The Age of Adz will come out this year.
The title track is here twice, in both an original and classic rock version (I prefer the original), and it is one of Stevens’ strongest works yet. “Heirloom” is a short but sweet Stevens standard. “All Delighted People” finds him playing with layers and structure, whereas “Heirloom” is a strait-up singer-songwriter beauty. I hate to say this album lacks energy, because it is so richly filled with passion, it just isn’t as upbeat as past works. The first single from The Age of Adz sounds 100% different from anything on this album, so make sure to take time with this EP, it shouldn’t be ignored in anticipation of the LP. All Delighted People confirms Sufjan Stevens as a brilliant songwriter and talented composer, let’s hope his next album continues the trend.