The beginning of this year was quite slow going for great records but Sufjan Stevens seventh studio album stood out instantly and has continued to stay a strong contender throughout the rest of the year, easily making its way onto my top 5.
Carrie & Lowell is a very intimate piece of work in every way. The larger scale electronic sound heard in a lot of his other work has been stripped down to simpler compositions which match his intensely personal lyrics, reminiscing his past and mourning people who have passed on. This intimacy also comes across in a lot of the production. The wispy vocals often sound like they were recorded when the emotions rather than the technical requirements were right and this manages to capture something far more human throughout.
The instrumentation, although sparse is given a lot of room in mix to provide poignancy. Thick washes of reverb are used liberally throughout the whole album to the extent that the effect becomes an instrument in itself. Turning harsh fast piano and guitar playing into wide open textures that reside in a numb dream of nostalgia. This sound is the cement throughout the whole album, grounding every song within as a complete work. Individual tracks don’t stand out for me, instead they merge together. Becoming the feeling of the record which always subtle, beautiful and softly spoken.
The album ends in a lush soundscape of instrumentation and humming from Srfjan Stevens and as the sound slowly drifts away into infinite silence were greeted with catharsis. It’s in that silence where the album manages its crowning achievement. Deep feelings of self-reflection and solidarity with the artist become the remnants of what is truly a fantastic piece of work.