Sufjan Stevens will always be remembered as the guy that stated he would write an album for each of the 50 states in the US, a task which although long and arduous would have definitely been an extraordinary feat. He may have only made two based on this idea, Michigan and Illinois, yet his talent for creating gorgeous songs was more than apparent. It is with his latest album though Carrie and Lowell, named after his mother and stepfather, where his full talent is unleashed.
Carrie and Lowell is a far more stripped back affair in which Stevens uses sparse instrumentation, a large shift compared to his earlier recordings, allowing the listener to focus more on the incredibly gorgeous lyrics which summarise the relationship with his family. He has always had a gift for writing beautifully poignant lyrics, yet on this album he takes it up a notch to craft his best yet. Each song is compounded full of pain and regret as he reminisces to great effect, with a constant theme of the album being fear of the past and the time he was unable to spend with his mother who passed in 2012.
The mood and lyrics may be morbid but the accompanying music creates the complete opposite effect
The album opens with ‘Death With Dignity’ and reflects Stevens forgiveness of his mother for the problems she has caused him, another common theme throughout the album. The next song, ‘Should Have Known Better’ is one of the highlights of the album: building from a quiet start to an intense finish, matching the lyrical transition of Stevens referencing his childhood moving to focus more on the future. “My brother had a daughter/The beauty that she brings/Illumination” he sings wistfully, almost forgiving and forgetting what has come before him to move forward.
Stevens’ voice may not be as strong as other iconic singer-songwriters such as Paul Simon, but the ghostly whisper he achieves makes each song undeniably gorgeous. The record as a whole is incredibly intimate and you can’t help but share the pain he describes in such meticulous detail. ‘Fourth of July’ is a joy to behold with it’s haunting piano repetition being played against the quiet nature of his voice. It is again about his Mother’s death as he sings about wrapping her dead body up in cloth and wanting to look at the moon one last time with her. The mood and lyrics may be morbid but the accompanying music creates the complete opposite effect.
Carrie and Lowell could most likely be the album to which many people will turn to to both forgive, forget and reflect on events that transpired
This album is certain to strike a chord with a number of listeners and will offer solace to anyone who has lost someone cl
ose to them. In times of loneliness, Carrie and Lowell could most likely be the album to which many people will turn to to both forgive, forget and reflect on events that transpired. It’s an early entry for albums of the year list and, to make an audacious claim, albums of the decade. Stevens has created his best work from such a painful source of inspiration and it is only fitting that it gets the acclaim it deserves.
Death With Dignity, Should Have Known Better, All of Me Wants All of You, Fourth of July
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