Friday, 27 March 2015

* Sufjan Stevens' Carrie & Lowell is a delight in every way
Michael Hann

For all the plaudits that greeted Sufjan Stevens’ Michigan and Illinois albums, there was always the nagging feeling that his music was more involving and moving when it was less high-concept, as on Seven Swans. He returns to that mood – sombre and intimate, with sparse instrumentation – for his seventh album, on which heartbreak and death are intermingled. “Shall we beat this or celebrate it?/ You’re not one to talk things through,” he sings on the devastatingly beautiful All of Me Wants All of You, then follows that line, bitterly, with: “You checked your texts while I masturbated/ Manelich, I feel so used.” Given the album is named after his mother (who left Stevens’ family when he was very young and suffered mental illnesses) and stepfather (who now helps run his record label), it’s hard not to imagine he’s unburdening himself of his childhood: is it Carrie who is “sitting at the bed with a halo at your head” on Fourth of July, especially when Stevens then wonders: “Was it all a disguise?” The music matches the lyrics, managing to be both overwhelming and understated: melodies match sentiment with perfect judgment. Carrie & Lowell is a delight in every way, surely one of the albums of the year.

Should Have Known Better
I should have known better
To see what I could see
My black shroud
Holding down my feelings
A pillar for my enemies

I should have wrote a letter
And grieve what I happen to grieve
My black shroud
I never trust my feelings
I waited for the remedy

When I was three, three maybe four
She left us at that video store
Be my rest, be my fantasy

I’m light as a feather
I’m bright as the Oregon breeze
My black shroud
Frightened by my feelings
I only want to be a relief

No, I’m not a go-getter
The demon had a spell on me
My black shroud
Captain of my feelings
The only thing I want to believe

When I was three, and free to explore
I saw her face on the back of the door
Be my vest, be my fantasy

I should have known better
Nothing can be changed
The past is still the past
The bridge to nowhere
I should’ve wrote a letter
Explaining what I feel, that empty feeling

Don’t back down, concentrate on seeing
The breakers in the bar, the neighbor’s greeting
My brother had a daughter
The beauty that she brings, illumination

Don’t back down, there is nothing left
The breakers in the bar, no reason to live
I’m a fool in the fetter
Rose of Aaron’s beard, where you can reach me

Don’t back down: nothing can be changed
Cantilever bridge, the drunken sailor
My brother had a daughter
The beauty that she brings, illumination

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