Confessional ‘Carrie and Lowell’ Sufjan Stevens’ most affecting album yet

Music

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell

Sufjan Stevens’ career seemed to reach its apex with the critically acclaimed Illinois (2005), a 74-minute concept album based on the American state from which it gets its name. Featuring orchestral arrangements, an array of instrumentation, and lengthy, comical song titles, the overblown but expertly crafted album was included on several best of the decade lists.

Chicago – Illinois

2010’s The Age of Adz received a mixed response from critics, and it seemed that the thirty-nine-year-old Michigan songwriter would never top Illinois. However, by returning to his folk roots and creating a highly impassioned, lyrically centered album, he may have done just that. Named after his deceased mother and stepfather, on Carrie and Lowell Stevens takes a step back from his favoured themes (in particular his fascination with American History), to contemplate issues of loss and redemption. His mother, Carrie, battled mental illness and substance abuse, and died of cancer in 2012, and Stevens’ memories of childhood visits to Oregon to see her and his stepfather form the theme of many of the songs.

On “Fourth of July”, the album’s most darkly affecting moment, he sings of a dialogue between him and his mother (“Well you do enough talk, my little hawk, why do you cry”), concluding on the repetition of the phrase “we’re all gonna die” as the song fades.

 

Stevens examines his Christian beliefs on penultimate track (and the album’s first single), “No Shade in the Shadow of Cross”, in which he struggles to find solace in his faith in the aftermath of the troubles he and his family have experienced.

 

Such weighty themes, and his return to his folk rock origins, may cause some to fear that the actual music is an afterthought, but Stevens’ sense of melody remains untainted: electric guitar on “The Only Thing” and keyboards on “Should Have Known Better” and “All of Me Wants All of You”, subtly complement the album’s emotional crescendos. Nor is Carrie and Lowell a downer; rather than being depressing for its own sake, it is a candid reflection of his life, and a sense of deep, genuine love for his mother and stepfather is evident from the first track to the last.

Reviews and Events
Marquez on the victory march in Argentina.

With the 2017 MotoGP season getting underway, Round 2 of the Championship took place this weekend at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina. Pre-race speculation suggested that three-time World Champion, Marc Marquez, was the man to beat around the 2.98 mile circuit. Marquez looked as though he was …

Music
Review: Hacksaw Ridge

Mel Gibson made his directing return this year with Hacksaw Ridge, a war movie about a pacifist, this level of contradiction was surely worth a watch. This movie goes some way towards repairing the damage of Gibson’s previous slurs and misdemeanors. Gibson’s return marks ten years out of the director …

Movies
Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

  It may be a ‘Tale as old as time’ but Bill Condon’s remake of the 26 year old fairy-tale film was refreshingly modern, feel good and unforced. The film is set in a picture-book French village during the 1780s. Beauty and the Beast’s heroine Belle was played by modern …