Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell // Community Review


Sufjan StevensCarrie & Lowell //

Is there a bigger indie darling than Sufjan Stevens? If there was any doubt, the 12th addition to his cannon, Carrie & Lowell, should cement this legacy.

What do you think of this record? Comment below for the chance to win free tickets to shows in SF this week, and keep the tissues nearby if you haven’t listened to this one yet.


Sufjan Stevens has a uniquely complex body of musical compositions, from the historical and geographical Come on! Feel the Illinois! to his exploration of the zodiac personalities through sound and the musical dedication to the BQE. Stevens has created his anomalous oeuvre that reflects his intelligent, playful, philosophical and melancholy sound. The album that he has just launched, named after his mother and stepfather, has more emphasis on the melancholy, shedding his exploration of epic arrangements like on his 2010 solo album Age of Adz and turning toward feathery method of songs like Seven Swans. A more thoughtful and delicate nature to the music is required to reflect the unfortunate reality of the death of Stevens estranged mother, Carrie, as Stevens uses his ability to weave fiction and reality to journey into the human elements of loss, love, want, and faith. Each song is a carefully created letter to the lost soul of his mother and at the same time, a general consensus of the human condition, so take the time to give this one a good listen, mediate on life’s purpose and fragility. -Bridget Stagnitto
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: “John My Beloved”

Sufjan Steven’s masterful new album isn’t just about grappling with the death of someone close, but it’s about the slow motion details of grief. There are fragmented memories (“…she left us at that video store”) and elements of creative nonfiction to fill those holes, regret (“I should have wrote a letter…”), the search for ways to cope (the creation of this album itself), and self harm (“There’s blood on that blade/ Fuck me, I’m falling apart”). The aural approach thrives in its simplicity and stark beauty, but lyrically it contrasts the acoustic aesthetics and cuts deep like a knife — in devastating fashion, the way only a musical master can pull off. The feeling of looming demise is like the last week spent with a loved one, beside their bed at the hospital, waiting. But Stevens pulls out a mirror for the listener with “Fourth of July”, the centerpiece of Carrie & Lowell, reminding us “we’re all going to die.” Stevens is attempting to find meaning in his absent mother’s passing, but certainly it’s an effort that we can all apply to ourselves, that it’s ok to acknowledge your own mortality and find truth in illumination. -Mike Frash
4.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Fourth of July”

Of the very little Sufjan Stevens material I’ve heard in the past, I never connected with it, but I was instantly hooked on my first full listen of Carrie & Lowell. He wastes no time laying his emotions flat out, effectively making me feel like I’m witnessing an old friend face the death of his mother and his own immortality with little more than a few strings and some keys. Stevens confronts grief with an enormous amount of grace, layering light, breezy melodies with dark emotional content (illustrated profoundly on “The Only Thing”). Despite the often haunting lyrical undertones, Carrie & Lowell brings an aural calm similar to that of Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues. -Rochelle Shipman
4 BAMS // Top Song: “Eugene”
Sufjan Stevens leaves the listener buried in emotion, toppled like the weight of sand and yet feeling light as a feather. There’s something poetic about his song structures, like they could be decoded into an equation on how to feel. Carrie & Lowell, a title attributed to his Mother and Stepfather, resembles the sentiment and elegance of 2004’s Seven Swans, and features an eerie swell on such tracks like “The Fourth Of July” and “Blue Bucket of Gold” that makes it feel as if Stevens has been hanging out with Thom Yorke. Stevens continuously proves that he can do anything he wants without being bratty, experimenting with hip-hop and electronica on his last couple albums, and flawlessly circling back to impassioned form. -Anthony Presti
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Should Have Known Better”


What are your thoughts on Carrie & Lowell? Keep the conversation going below with your own quick review or comment below. If we like your reply, we’ll hook you up with a free pair of tickets to your choice of show this week in San Francisco.

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  1. John Wazza says:

    No doubt an AOTY contender.

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