Album ReviewAll Delighted People★★★★
Indie folk singer Sufjan Stevens definitely adheres to the adage "bigger is better" when it comes to his work - he plans to complete 10 albums by the end of the decade.
Stevens' first album, A Sun Came, debuted in 2000 and his latest EP, All Delighted People, was released online Aug. 20 and marks the ninth stop of his musical journey. The disc contains eight new songs that last almost an hour, making it much "bigger" than a traditional EP, typically comprised of several songs that didn't fit on a full-length album.
Though All Delighted People appears to be quite different from Stevens' other successful albums such as Michigan and Illinois, his long-form lyrics are still as captivating and his unusually whimsical orchestral arrangements have not gotten old. The songs seem to be more labor-intensive than previous offerings; many have more elements that would be expected from a five-piece band.
This mix of songs is quite different than those on his "state" albums, but also extraordinarily refreshing. "The Owl and The Tanager," a song that Stevens frequently plays live, is a piano piece laced with Stevens' prototypical singing style. It is these types of tracks on Delighted that make his music instantly recognizable and differentiate him from similar artists like Andrew Bird.
The most attention grabbing song on the EP is undoubtedly "Djohariah." Clocking in at over 17 minutes long, it is a combination of sultry soft R&B, choir music and enough blues rock riffs to please fans of Eric Clapton. The lyrics, which begin more than halfway through the song, tell a story about single mother with relationship issues and a blue-collar attitude. It packs a one-two punch that is reminiscent of another of Stevens' songs, "Flint (for the Unemployed and Underpaid)."
Throughout "Djohariah" Stevens challenges listeners to refrain from empathizing with the mother and her difficulties, a seemingly impossible feat. The powerhouse of a song is strategically placed as the last track on the EP, leaving the listeners feeling as if they have been through a trial in life, and like the character of "Djohariah" overcame the hardship.
All Delighted People is available on Stevens' website asthmatickitty.com - where it is also streaming for free in its entirety - for only $5.