Sufjan Stevens’ best album to date is a majestic album made with small means, about his mother Carrie and his stepfather Lowell.
SUFJAN STEVENS CARRIE & LOWELL (Asthmatic Kitty Records)
There’s somehting so chilling and so pragmatic about how Sufjan Stevens approaches both the relationship to his mother Carrie and her death. By taking a step or two back, he clearly distances himself from both aspects, if not for anything else, I’m guessing he needed his eyes wide open to tell the story un-mudded, detached even. That could also be the key to the fact that these 11 songs tap deep within and beyond to what you ever would expect. Also by using sparse and acoustic arrangements, he very clearly strips off all possible layers that could come in-between his songs and us listening. He provides us with no safety net, nothing to shield us with, it’s just his words, melodies and voice, and its un-sentimental, haunting and heart-wrenching.
His language beautifully catches the harsch reality and anxient of loss, but also that of not being able to grieve and the regret of not ever getting to know your parent. As he throughout the album uncovers unsettling truths not only about himself, but also his mother, who due to schizophrenia, depression and drug abuse abondaned Sufjan and his brother when he was only 1, he still finds forgiveness and redemption in her choices. Although he tackles the difficulties with such poise and sober manner, the bareness of the songs makes everything so raw, so real. Nothing filtered and there’s definitely relief in just that. Just warmth, dignity and love. And I surrender.
What also strikes me is the way he with so small means makes such grand songs, with makes it all so majestic in its simplicity. As one of the albums most touching and beautiful tracks, Fourth of July, which is set like a dialogue with Sufjan and his mother Carrie, in the hospital at her death bed, with that haunting, inevitable mantra in the end. Darkness and light in perfect union. This is one of this year’s best albums so far.