On Aug. 20, Sufjan Stevens surprised the music world with the unexpected release of All Delighted People EP, an eight-song, 60-minute opus available as a digital download for $5. The release is a welcome move from Stevens who has remained mainly dormant since the release of 2005's Illinois.
The EP lightens the mood before the highly anticipated release of The Age of Adz, due out on Tuesday, Oct. 12. But ADPEP is hardly a side note or collection of B-sides.
Stevens applies his knack for classical composition to lengthier templates. The 17-minute "Djohariah" begins with soft choral swells that eventually evolve into loud, haunting moans before breaking down into a cacophony of electric guitars, booming drums, brass and strings. The song contains lengths of spacey, Steven Drozd-style guitar solos and a repetitive rhythm that allows the band to build and morph around it. The psychedelic mess eventually lands back in the singer's lap, with Stevens' gorgeous voice capping it off amidst a sway of electronic drumbeats.
Stevens continues to add electronic elements on the eight-minute, "All Delighted People (Classic Rock Version)," in which traditional Sufjan colors--banjo, lap steel, slide, a large choir--are fused with synthesizer, effects-driven guitar and drum machine. This song, combined with the more standard but equally glamorous, "All Delighted People (Original Version)," form the backbone of the album.
Between the longer songs are little nuggets of beauty. "Heirloom" is centered on Stevens' poetic verse and some smoothly plucked guitar. The song is heavenly, calling to mind the softer side of Kenny Loggins or the Carpenters. "Enchanting Ghost" is a melancholy tune, accented by careful piano taps and an angelic harp.
After five long years, this EP is totally worth the wait. Stevens hasn't lost it; he has matured, evolved and developed his sound. If All Delighted People EP is the appetizer, than The Age of Adz should make for an outstanding main course.