Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell (2015)
Thanks to a cold, plain and nifty autumn evening on an ordinary Thursday. This album was almost slipping by if I hadn’t decided to collect as many indie folk album as I possibly could back in 2015. However, It took me a while to imbibe that I was not aware of this masterpiece even when it had come out almost nine months before I got the chance to listen.
Sufjan Stevens is a Detroit born singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and at this point of his career I suppose it’s safe to say that he is an international treasure. Carrie and Lowell is Sufjan Stevens 7th studio album released through Asthmatic Kitty on March 31, 2015, named after his mother and stepfather. The album is a tale of the relationship that he had with his mother and the blocks of feelings that he went through after her death. The album received massively positive reviews from the critics and was considered one of the best albums released in 2015.
Carrie and Lowell is Sufjan’s personal album. The lyrics in the album are the projection of him being stuck in the intricacies of emotions and thoughts that he had been feeling after the death of his mother. Carrie was a bipolar and schizophrenic. She was an alcoholic and had a problem of being addicted to drugs as well. She left the family when Sufjan was only one. The lyrics in the track “Should Have Known Better” tells the story of them (Sufjan’s brother and sister) being left alone by Carrie at a video store. And even with all these blocks of negative things between Carrie and Sufjan, musically this album exceeds the irrevocable idea of a poor relationship a woman had with her family. It illustrates the complication of emotions a human being encounters in the moment of crisis but in a beautiful and composed way.
The opening track “Death With Dignity” starts with an excellent piece of melody that seems like a combination of a guitar and ukulele. The beautiful fact about this track or any track in this album is Sufjan’s minimal yet vast approach to the arrangement. Every track in this album sounds fresh and new even when they are not. From Death with Dignity’s gorgeous arpeggios to Fourth Of July’s underwater-e gloomy piano and pad ballads represent Sufjan Stevens excellence as a songwriter and composer. The lyrics in the tracks constantly represent the confused emotional states that Sufjan got through for being unable to be near to his own mother while on the other hand the arrangements and compositions represent Sufjan’s desolation and somewhere depict Carrie’s incapability to raise her children as a consequence of her shattered emotional state for bipolar syndrome and schizophrenia.
The vocal delivery in this album is absolutely spanking like they have always been in almost every Sufjan’s album. The album arts in the cover and in the booklet and the album in general somewhere creates a nearness to this whole happening. I guess, it’s one of the reason why people, including myself, love this album so much. It’s an absolute great experience to witness Sufjan’s grief and love for his mother in a most beautiful and artistic way possible and with every listening it only gets better even when someone hears it for all these years. And that without a doubt represents Sufjan’s everlasting love for Carrie and Lowell.