Sufjan Stevens’ “Carrie & Lowell” Review



Sufjan Stevens, a folk singer-songwriter, from Detroit, Michigan is well known in the indie music circuit. His new album, “Carrie & Lowell” is a far cry from the electric freakout style of “Age of ADZ”, his last album. Stevens’ new work explores his relationship with his mother, Carrie, who abandoned him at the age of one and her death from cancer in 2012. Stevens’ infrequent encounters with his mother, an alcoholic with psychological issues, are documented throughout. Lowell, Stevens’ stepfather, also runs Stevens’ label Asthmatic Kitty.

Stevens returns to his folk roots of “Illinois” and “Michigan”, his most well known and successful albums, with a stripped down sound and haunting vocals. “Carrie and Lowell” is what I’d consider his most emotional album, with the entire album keeping with the sad and depressing feeling of losing a loved one. It doesn’t stray from this, and I’ll warn you, this album isn’t an easy listen. With only 12 songs, a short album for him, there is not a weak track on “Carrie & Lowell”. The song length is tame, and the song titles are not the lengthy fare that he’s known for.

Stevens’ takes a relatively low-fi attitude to the recording on this album, choosing to let the air conditioner run in the background of most tracks. The AC unit is especially notable in the tracks “No shade in the shadow of the cross”, and “Blue Bucket of Gold”.

If I had to pick my favorite songs from this album, I’d choose “Fourth of July”, “The Only Thing” and “No shade in the shadow of the cross”. These songs because of both the lyrical and song structure. I feel that these are the most emotional songs on the album, and the best sounding. These are also the songs to listen to as singles, if you don’t have the time to go through the whole album. That being said, I enjoy the other songs on this album almost as much.

“Carrie & Lowell” is one of his best, mixing excellent composition with themes of love and death. The lyrical content is deep, it may take two or more listenings to fully make sense of the album, and Stevens’ feelings for his mother. I enjoy the pure emotion, and the writing and composing talent of Stevens. The rather short length of this album makes good for those who want to get into Stevens’ discography. Despite the heavy themes of this album making it difficult to listen to, this was still very good album, and I highly recommend it to all, first time listeners and Stevens’ veteran fans alike.