Tag Archives: Carrie & Lowell

Acclaimed Albums – Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 147/250Title: Carrie & Lowell
Artist: Sufjan Stevens
Year: 2015
Position: #220

At the end of 2015 I ranked Carrie & Lowell as my second favourite album of that year behind Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear. That was a tough call as, honestly, there was less than a hair between my top 3 of that year. Even now, two and a half years later, it is incredibly difficult to rank them. However, there is absolutely no denying that Carrie & Lowell is an incredibly special album.

As someone who has been a loyal fan of Sufjan Stevens’ music for over a decade (and seen him live twice) a new album always produces a lot of excitement for me. With Carrie & Lowell it was even more so as it was a return to the folk roots that he abandoned for his previous album (The Age of Adz). Not only that, but this was going to be his most personal work to date. I couldn’t wait.

I was right to be excited. Carrie & Lowell is an album of outstanding beauty that has been created from Sufjan Stevens’ own pain and his love for both his mother and his step-father. There are still times where track from this album have the ability to make me feel tearful, and considering how many times I’ve played this album in the last 3 years that is no mean accomplishment.

As an album is an incredibly cohesive time capsule  for a short period in Steven’s life. His lyrical quirks and asides (such as the line from ‘Eugene’ about his stepfather calling him “Subaru”) with the beautiful arrangements that are at times sparse and at others lush just make this whole album sound like sonic therapy.

At the centre of all this are two tracks which, somehow, were even better when I saw him play this album live: ‘Fourth of July’ and ‘The Only Thing’. The former is about a conversation between Stevens and his mother as she lay dying in hospital. It’s a story about how, in the face of death, they were able to properly communicate their feelings of unconditional familial love.

Then there’s ‘The Only Thing’. A song that, if you are someone who has ever had the misfortune to come face to face with part of you that seeks self-destruction, speaks a strange truth. In essence, it is a song about all the ways you imagine topping yourself, wondering how much you care if you end up surviving and finding a reason to carry on.

There’s a similar song on St Vincent’s amazing album MASSEDUCTION called ‘Smoking Section’. For her the reason to keep going is love, for Sufjan it’s the beauty that can be found in nature and his own faith in God. I cannot imagine how hard it must be sing a song like that every night when on tour – must be like continually prodding at an open would.

Then again Carrie & Lowell, as an album, is an open wound. It’s made of some of the most beautifully and brutally honest songs that I have ever heard. Hopefully this has been the catharsis he needed.

In Review: Music Of 2015

It’s the end of 2015! What a year it’s been for me. Marriage. Honeymoon in Japan. It’s going to be one of those years I will always remember.

Also, what a crop of music! I guess the older you get, the more artists you love begin to culminate. Still, for my music taste, it has been exceptional. So I figured why not pre-empt future updates on the Acclaimed Albums list, and a possible expansion of that list when I reach 100%, by going through the music of 2015 followed by a Top 20?

Did Not Chart

I listened to a lot of music this year. According to Last.fm, this might be the most varied I have ever been when it comes to sheer number of different tracks. This means that there are quite a few albums that did not crack my personal Top 20.

One I am going to rather obviously point out is Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. This is the album that will appear on the next update of the list.  I know that this makes me some sort of musical philistine, but this is where I am with rap albums. No matter how acclaimed or important it is… I just can’t get to the heart of it. Also, the liberal use of the n-word just makes me plain uncomfortable. I did like ‘King Kunta’ though.

Now, for the main event. My Top 20 albums of 2015!

Platform 1#20 – Platform by Holly Herndon
#19 – Wildheart by Miguel
Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper#18 – Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper by Panda Bear
#17 – Endless Vacation by Annie
Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit#16 – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett
Blackbirds#15 – Blackbirds by Gretchen Peters
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful 1#14 – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence + The Machine
#13 – Hairless Toys by Roisin Murphy
Have You In My Wilderness#12 – Have You In My Wilderness by Julia Holter
Natalie Prass#11 – Natalie Prass by Natalie Prass
Currents#10 – Currents by Tame Impala
M3LL155X#9 – M3LL155X by FKA twigs
#8 – In Colour by Jamie xx
Emotion#7 – Emotion by Carly Rae Jepsen
Divers#6 – Divers by Joanna Newsom
Vulnicura#5 – Vulnicura by Bjork
Froot#4 – FROOT  by Marina & The Diamonds
Art Angels#3 – Art Angels by Grimes
#2 – Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens
#1 – I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty