Review: Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens

Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan StevensWhile listening to Carrie & Lowell, the latest album from Sufjan Stevens, I couldn’t help but think of Bon Iver. I know, I know. Sufjan’s been doing this for longer: it’s been a decade since his breakthrough album, Illinois. Throughout all that time he’s just been busy experimenting (arguably more so in his last album, 2010’s The Age of Adz) and shifting styles – so I didn’t expect him to return to his simple, mournful roots in Carrie & Lowell. Named after his recently deceased mother and his stepfather, this might be Sufjan’s most personal record: despite a reliance on the same structure and tricks throughout, it is an evocative record of reflection after loss. The lyrics may be occasionally whimsical and, as before, filled with religious references, but little is obscured. Unlike Justin Vernon’s dense layers, the deceiving simplicity of the songs and Sufjan’s thoughtful coo actually welcomes you to his innermost thoughts, and the result is his purest record yet – and one you can easily get into, whether you’re a long-time fan or a newcomer. [NB] | 4/5

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