Dropping out of nowhere this summer, the All Delighted People mega-EP (the thing is 60 minutes long) is Sufjan Stevens’ long-awaited return to song-based material.
The EP is an all-encompassing affair and serves as an both an excellent reminder of Stevens’s work to date and a crash-course for the uninitiated. There’s the sweeping orchestral-pop of Michigan and Illinois, the hushed, acoustic ruminations of Seven Swans, and even the electronic blips of Enjoy Your Rabbit and symphonic flourishes of The BQE.
It’s impossible to talk of the EP without mentioning how it begins and ends: with two behemoths of songs that couldn’t be more different. The title track-an 11-minute-opus loosely based on Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence”-is unapologetically grandiose, taking the densest arrangements from Stevens’ back catalogue and cranking them to 11, with pretty spectacular results. Meanwhile, 17-minute album closer “Djohariah” (billed as a “guitar jam-for-single-mothers”) builds a cacophonous guitar solo around a fusion-y vamp, and rewards attention spans with some spectacular instrumental crescendoes. It’d all be incredibly self-indulgent if it wasn’t so good.
In between the two, piano ballad “The Owl and The Tanager,” finds Stevens’ lyrics at their most unsettling: “You touched me inside of my cage / Beneath my shirt your hands embraced me / Come to me feathered and frayed / For I am the ugliest prey.”
The 50 States project be damned, Sufjan is back, and we can all collectively exhale.