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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

November 23, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: Mellow artist bares soul in new release

"Carrie & Lowell"

Sufjan Stevens

A gently plucked guitar interlude and soothing lyrics sets the tone for Sufjan Stevens’ newest album, “Carrie & Lowell,” which was released almost five years after Stevens’ last studio album, “The Age of Adz.” “Carrie & Lowell” exhausts every emotion as Stevens sings of his mother, Carrie, who abandoned him as a child and passed away from cancer in 2012. Stevens humanizes his pain and loss in the prettiest way and tells a story of guilt, loss and vulnerability, laying his thoughts and desperations completely bare for his listeners.

“Carrie & Lowell” is by far Stevens’ most intimate album, and although he uses only guitar and piano, “Carrie & Lowell” is anything but plain. From a conversation with his mother on her deathbed in “Fourth of July” that ends with the lyrics, “We’re all gonna die,” which eventually fade out into silence, to “The Only Thing” where Stevens reflects on his suicidal thoughts, asking himself, “Do I care if I survive this?” Stevens finds himself in a complicated emotional place, but is able to translate it into beautiful music.

Stevens’ ability to turn great loss and suffering into perfectly simple chords and flawless lyrics is a demonstration of his genius as a musician and what makes “Carrie & Lowell” Stevens’ best album to date.