“Carrie & Lowell” by Sufjan Stevens
Carrie & Lowell
Carrie & Lowell, Sufjan Stevens‘ latest album, is an invitation for us to witness the dysfunction of grief. Carrie is his mother with whom he had an intermittent relationship with until her death in 2012. The music surrounds you in a lovely acoustic haze, only for you to realize as the lyrics hit your cerebral cortex that he has been softly crooning about his mom’s corpse, heroin, or suicide.
Spare and acoustic this album is. Easy to listen to, it is not. But that is by design, as in an interview with Pitchfork, the singer/songwriter confided, “It’s not really trying to say anything new, or prove anything, or innovate. It feels artless, which is a good thing. This is not my art project; this is my life.”
Grief is a messy, non-linear emotional upheaval, and one line from “John My Beloved” sums this up perfectly: “I am a man with a heart that offends/with its lonely and greedy demands/There’s only a shadow of me; in a manner of speaking I’m dead.” Of course, the downside to all this beautiful introspection is every fourth of July, I will now hear a little voice whisper “we’re all gonna die.”