Sufjan Stevens
All Delighted People


2.0
poor

Review

by Jared Ponton EMERITUS
August 23rd, 2010 | 37 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Sufjan, baby, you failed us.

And it’s such a surprise, too, this EP, this disappointment, this very breakup letter: All Delighted People. We just didn’t expect it. We simply had no expectations for this release – and yet, deep down we had high hopes for it all the same. For five long years did Sufjan Stevens wait at our listening residence, living off our welfare and our patience. He soon became disillusioned with his art - but we stubbornly persevered and didn’t become disillusioned with him. Day after day, year after year, we waited eagerly for a word from Stevens on his next project: we couldn't help but believe in him.

Because he did the unthinkable in the last decade, two indie pop-folk epics in the insurmountable “50 States Project”, his Michigan and Illinois albums. When it was announced that the whole thing was a joke, an impossible task, true, but given the quality of the first two entries, eagerly anticipated, a part of us wanted to believe that he could have actually pulled off forty-eight more gems. Alas, we were heartbroken – but we still stuck with him. Even if another state wouldn’t see another album-ode, we could still, at the very least, await the proper follow-up to 2004’s Seven Swans. The crafter of one (two) of the Noughties' best albums deserved every single bit of that trust:

When Villagers’s Conor O’Brien broke out earlier this year as a songwriter with a striking degree of potential, who was it that we used to gauge his skill" Stevens. When Perfume Genius’ Mike Hadreas literally came out of nowhere in the summer as a lowly, broken, yet phenomenal songwriter, who was it that we compared the strength of his melodies to, his tone even" Stevens. When The Tallest Man on Earth’s Kristian Matsson made what appeared to be the singer-songwriter album of the year earlier in April with The Wild Hunt, for whose album did we patiently wait word for before the official title was given" Sufjan fuckin’ Stevens.

The rumor of a collaboration between Stevens and The National cemented all the reasons why to wait in our minds, practically earning the title of 2010’s best album, just by the implications of such a union - with a High Violet context of course (well, duh). But alas, here and now, so suddenly, we have our All Delighted People EP: in essence, Sufjan Stevens betraying us. What has marked Stevens’ work up until this point is his lovely sugary and pin-point focused melodies, the crux of which such sprawling epics as Illinois’ “Chicago” and Michigan’s “Vito’s Ordination Song” are built upon. It’s very frustrating in what seems to be an attempt to expand his range and palette of sounds, Stevens loses much of this focus for many of the EP’s songs.

Songs overly drag out on All Delighted People in what initially sounds like grandiose splendor and animate instrumental workings, but soon reveal themselves as pieces just wondering around aimlessly, when listen after listen fails to reveal any sort of intentional direction. The obvious candidates for such an error are the overextended and wearisome bookending pieces of the EP, “All Delighted People” (11:38) and “Djohariah” (17:02), both essentially making up half of the release’s total one-hour length. This is a very detrimental problem as Stevens will have you lost going into and out of this thing, often losing for you in the static bits and pieces of the gems to be found between these two songs.

One such new-Stevens-gone-right is “The Owl and the Tanager”, a song that rivals “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” for the songwriter’s most chilling, mournful track. “I punched your ears instead / I punched you in the head / You only laughed and laughed and laughed” is the type of morose imagery that Stevens’ brings to the table here, aided by the songwriter’s voice that has aged noticeably in the five years since Illinois. It’s a tone that can reach piecing heights, used effectively here, on the quirky, yet well composed “From The Mouth of Gabriel”, and the light, comparatively stripped-down “Heirloom”. However, Sufjan’s new-grown-up tone suffers strongly in both versions of “All Delighted People”, “Djohariah”, and most acutely on “Enchanting Ghosts”, in which it sounds as if Steven’s vocals are about to cave in all around him, much less the track itself.

Things “caving in on” Stevens is not something new to his career, if perhaps only a recent happening since his 2005 critically acclaimed Illinois album. He has told us that he “doesn’t believe in the album anymore,” and that music as a whole has lost its charm on him. Now, make no mistake: All Delighted People is proof that Stevens does in fact believe this. It’s a messy, over-indulgent hour-long work that most often over-extends its instrumentals but can’t ever effectively go anywhere with its own ammo; or as one Alex Robertsona puts it, “[it’s] floating around in search of a good hook or melody.” This, in essence, is Sufjan Stevens’ career at this very time: He’s lost, still trying to find his love of music again, but is essentially floating helplessly in some sort of limbo. All Delighted People is the sound of a songwriter that has not only failed us, but has evidently failed himself as well.



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user ratings (403)
Chart.
3.9
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
JWT155
August 24th 2010


14178 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm not a big Sufjan fan but I loved this EP.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 24th 2010


16328 Comments


"And it’s such a surprise, too, this EP, this disappoint, this very breakup letter"

this disappoint

"for who’s album did we patiently wait word for before the official title was given to The Wild
Hunt?
Sufan fuckin’ Stevens."

whose*

sufjan*. i also dont necessarily agree with your statement but whatever

"This is a very detrimental problem as Steven’s will have you lost going into and out of this thing"

should this be Stevens*

tombits
August 24th 2010


3539 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It's definitely not his best but I wouldn't call it his worst either.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 24th 2010


16328 Comments


LOL love you for the quote at the end

edit: nice review

Ponton
Emeritus
August 24th 2010


6362 Comments


Thanks alex, fixed and stuff.

it had been getting a lot of praise, and i personally don't like it obv, so i thought it deserved a second opinion

JWT155
August 24th 2010


14178 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it had been getting a lot of praise, and i personally don't like it obv, so i thought it deserved a second opinion


123 to each his own opinion.

tombits
August 24th 2010


3539 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah man, it's a great review and I understand you completely.

natey
August 24th 2010


4190 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i don't think Sufjan's lost as much as he gets a boner when he writes weird layers and song structures

and "progressive" stuff. like he does stuff you can't excuse for anything but unique genius sorta. i

think he's proud of what he's doing (and a little hypocritical, like most people), not lost



and i love listening to it :/

Sheeple9000
August 24th 2010


1349 Comments


but is essentially floating helplessly in some sort of limbo

He needs to wake up from his dream waking up from his dream while he wakes up from his dreaming.

Electric City
Emeritus
August 24th 2010


15762 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

haa

natey
August 24th 2010


4190 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

[IMG]http://cdn3.knowyourmeme.com/i/000/065/203/original/1281598256567.jpg?1281598555[/IMG]

jingledeath
August 24th 2010


7101 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

don't like Sufjan as much as most others on this site but I wouldn't say this is that bad, probably 3-3.5 for me.

Athom
Emeritus
August 24th 2010


17240 Comments


and here i was saying that you should be promoted to staff and then you do shit like this. i thought you were cool, man.

Kiran
Emeritus
August 24th 2010


6027 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

though obviously i disagree as every point you make is pretty much the exact opposite of every point i made but hot damn your writing is excellent as always

Romulus
August 24th 2010


8505 Comments


Great review Jared, probably convinced me not to give this a listen

Ponton
Emeritus
August 24th 2010


6362 Comments


Thanks rom, though i have a feeling you may have more to like here then in his past work

though obviously i disagree as every point you make is pretty much the exact opposite of every point i made but hot damn your writing is excellent as always


Thanks kiran, and I guess in that its an Embryonic-Rudy thing for me as what I dislike here will be what a lot of people think lacked in his old work, or will just find the new direction fresh altogether.

Sorry adam, but we do agree on more things than not though

DBlitz
August 24th 2010


1693 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

cool da first 3.5 paragraphs are pretty much pointless

Ponton
Emeritus
August 24th 2010


6362 Comments


i can see why you'd say that they are useless in a way, but i use them as context for my view, and others', on this and Stevens' past work. I guess, to help people see where I'm coming from basically.

DBlitz
August 24th 2010


1693 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

i guesss



but do you really need 4 paragraphs for that

Ponton
Emeritus
August 24th 2010


6362 Comments


not necessarily, but with a popular artist like stevens, and this being as well recieved as it has been here and other places, I felt like I really had to get my point across and add a strong context for my reasons of giving it a 2.

I guess i should have done it in less to make it easier on the reader, but at the same time I don't think I just wasted space either. Thanks for the crit there though and ill apply it with future reviews and to make it easier on the reader



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