Sufjan Stevens All Delighted People EP

It’s the weekend after an extremely hard week mentally. I ain’t gonna lie, suddenly being off anti-depressants sucks. I have to get to the doctor for a renewal and it’s a long weekend with only next Monday as my first opportunity for a visit. The drugs didn’t make me ‘happy,’ but just kept the bottom from dropping out, kept the no-damn-reason black days away. And the black days just came two days ago. Is it a placebo, real or what? I don’t know. The emotions scramble my ability to tell. So, emotions also suck. They lie and distort your perceptions. They’re what’s telling you God is real, that the devil is real. That every stray thought should be megaphoned. They make the innocent seem nefarious. Basically, they add evidence that often doesn’t exist to reality.
So, I have to fight the black moods the old fashioned way, with distractions, with focused breathing and walks and with music. It’s effin’ exhausting. My head feels like a kite on a string, removed from my neuropathy-ridden body and my brain has bees crawling over it’s surface. All tiny feet and strange buzzing.
A few years ago, I swear Wilco’s A Ghost is Born saved my life, before pharmacology.

Some old Bob Dylan, some Luna covers and the new Arcade Fire helped me normalize today. I was going to review the new Arcade Fire (spoiler-alert, I liked it better than Neon Bible), but decided I wanted to listen to it a few more times before weighing in.
So, an EP then. That’ll be quick. What, the new Sufjan Steven’s EP is an hour long? Jeez…
I like Sufjan. I listened to Illinois a bunch of times, love the song Chicago, but now really only skip to the songs I really like in his catalog. I’ve listened to his other albums only a couple of times, including that over-long Christmas album. I own them all thanks to emusic.
I wished I liked Sufjan more. I just can’t relate to him like I can the similar sounding Clem Snide or M Ward or Yo La Tengo. I can put on most any Clem Snide album at any time and it’s always late fall and I’m comforted and wistful like an old sweater. There’s irony and sad beauty. I think that’s how Sufjan wants me to feel.
I certainly enjoy the breathy immediacy of his vocals and the banjo and some of the horn flourishes. There’s just a weird New Christian vibe to the albums that strike me as hipstery. The language of his isn’t pretentious, but if there’s a country bordering pretentious, Sufjan has a passport there. He visits. I don’t think he’s cynical and he’s certainly singing from the heart. It’s just his heart’s glasses are on an old prescription. It’s unfocused. I know that doesn’t make much sense.
All the cool kids love his albums, but I haven’t found a reason why they do. Not my generation I guess. I’m rambling on like a Sufjan Stevens EP…

Okay, the new EP. (A pet peeve of mine are music reviews that never really get around to the music they’re supposedly reviewing and damned if I didn’t just do that.) Most of the songs are pretty long in the psychedelic folk-rock fashion. The problem is that they don’t really sustain any momentum. The exceptions are the second version of All Delighted People and the last half of the 17 minute EP closer, Djohariah, that one actually strikes close to Yo La Tengo long song territory. The main song, lyrically, is an homage to Simon and Garfunkel, using the first half of many of their famous couplets. I like that.
There’s plenty of small, fascinating sections in each of the songs, but the don’t gain any momentum. It’s like Sufjan got distracted with one idea, didn’t really develop it or call it back and decided to move on. It’s song ADHD. That can work for a skilled cut and paste artist like Beck, but not for someone who is trying to musically tell a story each song. Illinois worked because Sufjan was focused on the story-telling, here the fracturing hurts the cohesiveness. The sum of the parts don’t create a bigger whole. Maybe I’d like the album better if it was 35 two minute songs instead of 8 seven minute songs.
Will I listen to it again? I’ve listened to it twice through, pretty focused, but I think for me to listen again, it’ll be the two songs I really like or as back ground noise.

That’s better than my track record with that other Cool Kids artist, Devandra Bernhardt. Sufjan, with this EP is edging toward Devandra Bernhardt territory. So, it’ll be a Cool Kids favorite, but man have I tried to get into DB.
That’s something that I’d definitely need pharmacology’s help to do.

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