Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty; 2015)
“The only thing that keeps me from driving this car/Half-light, jack knife into the canyon at night” whispers a 39-year-old Sufjan Stevens, voice quivering, breathy and faint. Carrie & Lowell is by no means an easy album, both for the singer-songwriter and his audience, but it feels necessary. An incredibly effective and intimate portrait of a bruised talent, the album finds Sufjan purging his dizzying thoughts in an effort to cope with loss. Unconventionally sparse and naked, Stevens seeks solace through an open, frank and often uncompromisingly direct dialogue, omitting his now signature knack for ambition in favour of simplicity and a raw efficacy; even 2004’s Seven Swans, the album’s closest structural counterpart, feels emotionally distant in comparison. While themes of abandonment and death linger throughout Carrie & Lowell, Stevens’ approach feels therapeutic in nature, granting the entirety brief glimmers of hope and striking a heart-rending chord few albums come near. Freed of clutter, Sufjan Stevens has accomplished his most affecting work.
Trial Track: “The Only Thing”