Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell

by Jim Harris Rating:10 Release Date:2015-03-30

Sufjan Stevens’ new album, Carrie and Lowell, is not only Sufjan’s greatest work, but it is also a musical elegy, a reflection and lament on not only a death, but a complex death at that. His mother walked away from the family when he was very young, and reconciling with this mother on her death-bed preoccupies the lyrical content and the music, in as wondrous and well-conceived a manner as I have ever heard.

Sufjan is one of our greatest alternative artists, and after this album, in the entire alternative universe. However, Carrie and Lowell, from a musical standpoint, is a capstone of a musician with ADD. His body of work is like the most brilliant fireworks display, tipped over and set off and all of us listeners run to see it explode in whatever direction Sufjan chooses. 

If he wasn’t dreaming big early in his career to want to go to all 50 states and write an album about it (he only made two, Illinois and Michigan), he was rapping with Sisyphus, struggling through bizarre electronica on Age of Adz, and pausing in between it all to write 12 albums of Christmas music. Musically, he has dabbled in more instruments, genres, and techniques than most any musician. And still managed to build a cult and growing following.

Thanks to the death of his mother, thanks to the pain and redemption needed in the exercise of dealing with her death, we have one of the finest albums of the year, Carrie and Lowell. This album is unrelentingly consistent musically. The simple yet complex layers of acoustic guitars mingled with church organs and the like, and his fragile, soft, occasionally high voice, lace through every song.  There is pain and anger and brutal honesty in most every song as well. 

There is no overriding Christian theme here, even though such song titles as ‘No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross’ would give you that impression. We know religion is a complex matter with Sufjan, but he says “Fuck me” in this song and another lyric is “You texted while I masturbated”  (Not exactly sermon material).This is an artist not only delving deep into the personal, but struggling for some sort of reconciliation or closure. 

Carrie and Lowell, and the tragedy that triggered this album, has forced an artist to focus. This is a brilliant Sufjan Stevens album. He’s never quite written songs as complete and whole and focused as ‘Eugene’ or ‘Should have Known Better’. Every song is exquisitely written and executed, and ties into the entire whole like nothing Sufjan has done before.

It’s as if the ghost or spirit or whatever of the mother who left him in a video store as a tot, never to see him again until her death-bed, has finally grabbed Sufjan by the shoulders and given him what he has needed most of his young, gifted life: Focus.

Comments (2)

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I'm really, really loving this one. Sad material, but I don't feel depressed listening to it.

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that's how i was feeling about it as well Justin. I listened to this and listen to Sun Kil Moon's Benji in the same day. This one was strangely uplifting.

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