Album Review: Sufjan Stevens' Carrie & Lowell
Sufjan Stevens returns with his full length album Carrie & Lowell, his first album since 2010. The album was released today, March 31.
Similar to all of Stevens' work, the 11 track release is unique and entrancing from beginning to end. Unlike The Age of Adz, where we heard a lot his electronic-meets-classical composition, this album is folk to its core. It returns to the stripped-down style of Seven Swans, but, after experimenting with film scores, electronics, and ballet compositions, it feels good to hear Sufjan returning to folk in its purest form. Stevens makes use of his banjo with soft melodic finger picking. The vocals are airy, initiate, and feature his somber falsetto. It is evident that Stevens is a master of song craft in nearly every medium, but the composition really shines in this album. While it maintains folk styles throughout, you can't help but hear Stevens' brilliant classical lines woven cleverly through the LP.
While the music of the album is gorgeous and deserves an entire listen to, the lyrics are the main focus of this album. Carrie & Lowell was named after Stevens' stepfather, Lowell Brams, and late mother Carrie Stevens, who passed in 2012 from stomach cancer. She abandoned Sufjan when he was only a year old. The album is autobiographical and chronicles his childhood without his mother as well as coping with her death. The lyrics are intimate and brutally honest. "Fuck me I'm falling apart," he writes in "No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross." He describes his approach to the album to Pitchfork,
"With this record, I needed to extract myself out of this environment of make-believe. It’s something that was necessary for me to do in the wake of my mother’s death—to pursue a sense of peace and serenity in spite of suffering. It’s not really trying to say anything new, or prove anything, or innovate. It feels artless, which is a good thing. This is not my art project; this is my life."
Pitchfok Bradon StusoyThe album deserves multiple listens in order to fully absorb the magnificence of the composition and lyrics combined. This is easily one of the best releases of 2015 and purest of albums yet.