Why Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie and Lowell is my Album of the Year So Far

Sufjan Stevens recently began streaming his new album Carrie & Lowell on soundcloud as well as music blogs NPR, The Guardian and Pitchfork

(stream it here: http://pitchfork.com/news/58935-sufjan-stevens-streams-new-album-carrie-lowell/)

and it’s safe to say that Stevens’ is tapping into some of his old roots that we may have caught glimpses of on songs like Casimir Pulaski Day or Decatur off of the album Chicago. As soon as the stream for his song Should Have Known Better which is my personal favorite from the new album released, it was clear that this album would be a lot slower and more emotional than some of his other releases, his last release Age of Adz being no exception.

(stream Should Have Known Better here: https://youtu.be/lJJT00wqlOo)

In Stevens’ past releases, the bulk of the album was mainly louder, almost pop-like powerful ballads. On his last release Age of Adz we learned that he knew his way around a synthesizer and was not afraid to experiment with it; although the one thing that all of his past releases have had in common is there’s always at least one softer song. These songs don’t explicitly throw things in your face, they generally have quiet, wispy vocals and the bulk of the instrumentation involves little more than an acoustic guitar. Interestingly enough as Stevens strips his songs down to the barebones, he seems to convey even stronger, more sincere emotions. When songs bring forward feelings like that they sort of have to have subject matter to match; this is where the true beauty of the album comes to light. The lyricism is top notch and nothing is hidden; the album title references Stevens’ recently deceased mother, as does a good amount of the subject matter within the album so sincerity within the lyrics certainly isn’t an issue.

We’ve seen Sufjan Stevens experiment with electronic music, conceptual Christmas albums and even release an entire full length instrumental album to tribute the Brooklyn-Queens expressway so to see him toy with the idea of doing an entire album meant to evoke certain emotions is definitely nice to hear. Not to mention the slow, wispy songs peppered throughout his past albums were certainly high points not only for me but for many others so an entire album consisting of songs like that is something Sufjan Stevens fans have been anticipating. If you go to Stevens’ bandcamp website you’ll see that the album is definitely very emotional, some listeners leaving comments like:

Austin Hiskes “Never before have I cried because of an album. Thanks, Sufjan!”

Keisha Armand Holy heartrending goodness. Favorite track: Should Have Known Better.

so if the preview to the album was enough to make some listeners cry, it’s safe to say that there’s no shortage of emotion in his music. All in all, I’m happy to see the direction that Sufjan Stevens chose to go in for this album and I’m anxiously awaiting the release.

The album comes out March 31st; However, you can preorder Carrie and Lowell by Sufjan Stevens on CD or Vinyl here:

http://music.sufjan.com/album/carrie-lowell

or buy it on iTunes.

Michael Persaud

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