by Warren Buchholz –
Sufjan Stevens always works like a close friend comforting you on sober nights when you want to reflect upon whatever is going on in your life. It’s the softest of mood music and should only be heard by ears with decent mental composure; otherwise, it feels like pouring a canister of Morton salt onto a raw mind. Carrie & Lowell is no different, and that’s okay. Whether this is background noise for studying or catching up with friends or pitched on full volume to dwell into sorrow and madness, the album is as malleable as dough.
I won’t lie. I do have several of these songs saved onto my “Mellow & Phlegmatic Playlist” as some of these songs calm the mind, especially “John My Beloved”, which I say is up there with the work he did on Illinoise. Carrie & Lowell is a return to the solemn acoustic Sufjan, which has been missing for nearly a decade (The All Delighted People EP was the beginning of this return). I’m glad he’s back, and I’m glad he’s given me songs like “Fourth of July”, “All of Me Wants All of You”, and “John My Beloved”.
I am a man with a heart that offends
With its lonely and greedy demands
There’s only a shadow of me; in a manner of speaking I’m dead
Sufjan Stevens is a poet who has carefully crafted every single word with layered meaning, and he always walks that fine line of religious imagery and love for another human being making it all feel eerily similar to songs like “To Be Alone with You” off of Seven Swans and “Romulus” off of Michigan. Relationships, like faith and hope and wonderment, are complicated and can sometimes become muddled by life. The people we were once close to are now faint in ways we never expected.
Fuck me, I’m falling apart. Stevens proclaims in “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross”. That want and drive for something more than in someone else’s life and being left powerless and alone has powerful crippling effects on the psyche.
Carrie & Lowell is stripped. Raw. The small moments of unobtrusive imagery and powerful emotion make the album worth listening to. Sufjan Stevens knows how to draw people into his world with his music and his words. Keep him close as a friend, and let him softly sing you to a comforting high on your sober night of rumination.
MAAF BOX listening pleasure: John My Beloved, Death with Dignity, Should Have Known Better, Eugene, Fourth of July, Blue Bucket of Gold
MAAF BOX rating: