"Spirit of my silence I can hear you / But I’m afraid to be near you"
March 23, 2015 10:40 AM   Subscribe

Sufjan Stevens's new album Carrie and Lowell can be streamed in its entirety at NPR and The Guardian. Four (very) early reviews. Previously
posted by Going To Maine (35 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not to derail immediately, but the selection of stuff available on NPR's First Listen this week is amazing. New albums from Sufjan, Death Cab, Lower Dens, Buena Vista Social Club, and Laura Marling (among a few other artists that I don't listen to regularly).

The Sufjan album is great (especially if you liked Seven Swans).

Listening to Lower Dens right now, and it's also pretty good. Haven't gotten to the others yet...
posted by schmod at 10:47 AM on March 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's a fair derail. I had considered mentioning some of the others, but since I'm going to be only listening to Sufjan for the next while I kept it focused. New Kendrick Lamar last week too. It's a great year for music (that I like).
posted by Going To Maine at 10:48 AM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


7 years on, and he still hasn't released a studio recording of Majesty Snowbird, which is a serious tragedy.

I've seen Sufjan perform live a few times, and he's always great. However, the performance he gave at Kennedy Center with the National Symphony Orchestra was arguably the best live performance that I've ever seen, and is unlikely to ever be topped. This is not a superlative I throw around lightly -- everything about the performance was flawless.
posted by schmod at 10:58 AM on March 23, 2015


I'm disappointed that Sufjan has abandoned his project of making an album for every U.S. state, but somewhat heartened by the prospect of him recording one for every Bond girl.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:15 AM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can stream the new Sufjan Stevens album at NPR but not the new Kendrick Lamar album, what's up with that.
posted by kenko at 11:15 AM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you cry while listening to an NPR First Listen, do you cry in real life
posted by naju at 11:15 AM on March 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Years back, Stevens said the States project was "such a joke," and that he felt like he was becoming a cliché of himself.

I hope someone else takes over, and they give up, then someone else takes over, and eventually the US is covered, but by 20 different artists and groups, not just one person.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:20 AM on March 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I can stream the new Sufjan Stevens album at NPR but not the new Kendrick Lamar album, what's up with that.

Well, the new Kendrick is out for salesies now, while the new Sufjan is just out for preordersies. Though I guess it leaked on March 8?
posted by Going To Maine at 11:20 AM on March 23, 2015


The new Earl Sweatshirt album is out too.

This year has been an absolute blessing for music, and it's not even April yet.
posted by naju at 11:22 AM on March 23, 2015


John Linnell attempted the more manageable goal of writing a song for every state, but he only got as far as the first 15.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:27 AM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


eventually the US is covered, but by 20 different artists and groups, not just one person.

Sounds like a good idea for a MeFi Music challenge...
posted by schmod at 11:34 AM on March 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Holy hell, this Pitchfork interview.
Pitchfork: Were you there when Carrie passed away?

SS: Yeah. She had stomach cancer, and it was a quick demise. We flew to see her in the ICU before she died. She was in a lot of pain, and on a lot of drugs, but she was aware. It was so terrifying to encounter death and have to reconcile that, and express love, for someone so unfamiliar. Her death was so devastating to me because of the vacancy within me. I was trying to gather as much as I could of her, in my mind, my memory, my recollections, but I have nothing. It felt unsolvable. There is definitely a deep regret and grief and anger. I went through all the stages of bereavement. But I say make amends while you can: Take every opportunity to reconcile with those you love or those who've hurt you. It was in our best interest for our mother to abandon us. God bless her for doing that and knowing what she wasn't capable of.

[...]

In lieu of her death, I felt a desire to be with her, so I felt like abusing drugs and alcohol and fucking around a lot and becoming reckless and hazardous was my way of being intimate with her. But I quickly learned that you don't have to be incarcerated by suffering, and that, in spite of the dysfunctional nature of your family, you are an individual in full possession of your life. I came to realize that I wasn't possessed by her, or incarcerated by her mental illness. We blame our parents for a lot of shit, for better and for worse, but it's symbiotic. Parenthood is a profound sacrifice.
As someone who has had cause to relate overmuch to "Romulus," that's some seriously heavy stuff. I hope he has found or is in the process of finding peace; I can't imagine making this record was very easy for him. Thanks for the reminder that Carrie and Lowell is coming down the pike.
posted by divined by radio at 11:48 AM on March 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


My god, this album. I was expecting Casimir Pulaski Day (deep, emotional, smart, both small and infinite, carefully constructed to be a perfect jewel box that happens to look sloppy and broken on the outside, something like the best products of an MFA program), but what we've really got is Elliott Smith come back to life.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:21 PM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


but what we've really got is Elliott Smith come back to life

Flagged as blasphemy.
posted by dephlogisticated at 12:45 PM on March 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I can't listen right now, but I'm wondering how this compares to both Illinoise and Age of Adz, the former being one of my all-time favorites, the latter completely unlistenable.
posted by slogger at 12:49 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm wondering how this compares to both Illinoise and Age of Adz, the former being one of my all-time favorites, the latter completely unlistenable.

I know what you mean, and I'm happy to say, the preview sounds gorgeous.

Article: Stevens sheds the lengthy experimental detours of his last full-length solo album, 2010's The Age Of Adz, but still infuses his music with subtly inventive touches: the choral shimmer that closes "Death with Dignity," the gorgeous voices that weave themselves into the increasingly complex fabric of "No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross," the pitter-patter percussion of the title track. And Stevens' perfectly chosen, like-minded collaborators — Laura Veirs, Bon Iver's S. Carey, Thomas Bartlett and others — leave their stamp quietly, so that even the most lavish moments of Carrie & Lowell connect as softly and surely as whispers under blankets.
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:52 PM on March 23, 2015


I'm wondering how this compares to both Illinoise and Age of Adz, the former being one of my all-time favorites, the latter completely unlistenable.

Of his previous albums, it sounds to me the most like Seven Swans and the least like Age of Adz (which is a relief to me; I completely agree with you about both albums, except that I did like "Futile Devices"). Except where Seven Swans had a lot of banjo, this one has more piano, and just the slightest echoey electronic hum undergirding everything.

Full disclosure: this album leaked a while ago, so I've been listening to it for over a week now. I think it's beaten Illinoise as my all-time favorite Sufjan record.
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 12:58 PM on March 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


but what we've really got is Elliott Smith come back to life

Flagged as blasphemy.
posted by dephlogisticated at 12:45 PM on March 23
  1. I agree, even though I don't even know which one I'm blaspheming against
  2. even so, I will not retract my statement.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:19 PM on March 23, 2015


I'm a person who first listened to Age of Adz and hated it, but have come around and really love it; it's now one of my go-to albums for long plane rides. Carrie & Lowell is like a nuclear bomb of introspective, beautiful sadness. It is an absolute masterpiece, and I am wondering, like Ayamatopeoeia, I'm wondering if this might click with me more than Illinoise, which is a very tall order. "Fourth of July," in particular, with its repeated terms of endearment between mother and son, is a real gut-punch.
posted by RubixsQube at 1:26 PM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm wondering if this might click with me more than Illinoise

Illinoise was the Sufjan album the person who I was when Illinoise came out would have preferred. Carrie and Lowell is the album that the person whom I am now would prefer. I hope that the next album he makes is the one that the person whom I will be will love most.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:48 PM on March 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


(Well, except for "Chicago". That song is best song forever.)
posted by Going To Maine at 1:55 PM on March 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


"...the latter completely unlistenable."

Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 2:13 PM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


love me some Sufjan. Super pumped to be seeing him soon, even if it cost arm + leg.
posted by threeants at 4:52 PM on March 23, 2015


to my mind, the archetypical Sufjan song would go "I kissed a man, that man was Jesus, something something spirit of industry"
posted by threeants at 4:59 PM on March 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


It surprises me that people are hearing a return to Seven Swans. To me this sounds very much like a scaled-back but unabashed successor to Adz; everything about the melodies, the cadences, and the vocal production. On first listen, I'm getting a very strong vibe from this album of the less memorable songs off Adz (All For Myself, Now That I'm Older, Bad Communication, etc) but also, thankfully, some of the stronger ones (Impossible Soul, Futile Devices).
posted by threeants at 5:08 PM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


You just made my day by posting this. SO EXCITED

Also, I may be crazy, but in some ways this music reminds me of a Sufjan-ized Simon and Garfunkel. Maybe it's the harmonies.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 5:25 PM on March 23, 2015


I got all the way through "Fourth of July" before I paused the stream and stomped around my apartment muttering "how dare you make me experience human emotion."
posted by a hat out of hell at 5:35 PM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Age of Adz is an astounding achievement. it is Great Music.
posted by Zerowensboring at 6:38 PM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I love Seven Swans the most of his albums, but Age of Adz is pretty good in its own right. The only album of Sufjan's that I'd say is unlistenable is Enjoy Your Rabbit. I think of Age of Adz as Enjoy Your Rabbit's tones mixed with Illinois style songs. Big and theatrical and orchestrated but based in synths and weird electronics.

Haven't heard anything off the new album except the first single (I'm purposely waiting until my pre-order comes in the mail to listen for some silly reason). But from what I hear it sounds like the album I've been wanting him to make for some time. After 10 years, 2 albums (one State, one Sci-Fi), multiple EPs and Christmas albums and dramatic projects and on and on, he's finally making an album about himself again.
posted by downtohisturtles at 11:14 PM on March 23, 2015


I listened to the album from front-to-back for a second time while driving home last night, and got a very distinct Elliott Smith vibe.
posted by schmod at 10:16 AM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I recently remarked that I was worried I didn't like acts like Sufjan Steven's any more because I don't let myself "feel" music the way I did 10+ years ago. My inability to even make it through half of this album hasn't done much to disprove that theory.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:34 AM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


That could be. I wouldn't say I'm having a particularly strong emotional reaction to the songs though (despite their quite raw lyrics -was my somethingth play-through before I noticed the line about slashed wrists). Illinoise tore me up like woah at the time, and some of it still might do it. I don't really want to be torn up right now, though, so I'm gladder for this.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:20 PM on March 24, 2015


To do: a comparison of "Fourth of July" with "Your Beat Kicks Back Like Death" and "Do You Realize??"
posted by Going To Maine at 8:22 PM on March 25, 2015


Just downloaded this album and listened to the whole thing and wow. This is far from a casual listen, demanding close attention as it does. The music itself goes down easy, and is often even sweet and pretty, but ouch, the lyrics.

Also, I thought the line "There's no shade in the shadow of the cross," was a quote from some hymn or something, or a slightly obscure saying, but I guess it isn't, and now I'm even more impressed with Sufjan's writing. Because damn, that's a deceptively simple bit of writing that can express an astonishing amount of depth.
posted by yasaman at 10:09 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the last album I immediately and unreservedly loved this much was Illinois.
posted by oulipian at 8:16 PM on April 1, 2015


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