From somewhere beyond the poetic grave Sufjan has seen fit to grace us all with a brand new EP. There are only eight tracks on the album but it totals just a shade under a full hour of newly recorded music. For the impatient types amongst you, fear not, you can buy or stream the entire album at Sufjan’s website.
The album starts off with a track that Sufjan was experimenting with last year on his brief (much too brief) tour of the midwest. It’s long, it rambles, but it does appear as if his tour helped him understand this title track much better than when it was a sprawling mess of sounds a year ago. To be sure it is still a massive song experiment, but it has become much more worthy of the Sufjan brand as it has matured.
Following the title track (all 11+ minutes of it) are a trio of tracks which I will affectionately label the bread and butter of Sufjan. There is finger picking, there are multiple floating vocals, and each song is an affectionate story told by one of the masters of the singer/songwriter genre. If you loved Sufjan Stevens on his trip through Michigan or Illinois or even if you first found him around Christmas these three songs will feel immediately recognizable.
The fifth track is a song that Sufjan has long been playing in a live setting. It has, in the past, been labeled Barn Owl Night Killer, but now as it receives a proper studio recording it too receives a proper studio name; The Owl And The Tanager. The harmonies on the vocals are chilling on this studio version. After hearing the live version recorded at PENultimate Lit from a few years back I wasn’t sure that this song would ever need to changed. On this studio track Sufjan proves me wrong.
The sixth track is a repeat of the title track, All Delighted People, but it is played it what Sufjan deems a “classic rock version.” Surely the phrase “classic rock” means something different to Sufjan than it does to me, because this sounds a lot less like Queen (my go to classic rock act) and a lot more like Simon and Garfunkel.
The final Sufjan Standard (TM) on the album is track seven Arnika. It’s a sparse song that has ultimately depressing lyrics “I’m tired of life / I’m tired of waiting for someone / I’m tired of prices / I’m tired of waiting for something.” Sufjan proves yet again that he is the master of taking the melancholy detritus of life and transforming it into a musical delight.
The last song on the album, a 17 minute rambling guitar jam called Djorhariah, is the only oddball in an otherwise solid new album by the artist we’ve come to know and love as Sufjan. And even as this track starts off in a different direction form what our ears have gotten used to over the previous seven tracks there are still Sufjan Stevens fingerprints littered throughout this sprawling mess of sounds.