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Sufjan Stevens is an American singer songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and one of the most popular underground musicians of the past decade. Known for his impeccable lyricism and surprising arrangements of his pieces, Sufjan has not released a studio album in his own name in over five years, making this release long overdue.
On this new record Sufjan returns to his roots of barebones folk music. Although known for having mass instrumentation on his albums, Sufjan keeps things simple and sweet. Tracks like "The Only Thing" and "Death with Dignity" are perfect examples of that, simpler tracks that are evermore beautiful; quick picking patterns, perfectly performed falsetto and Sufjan comes through in demonstrating his electronic influence as you can find quite the variety of generated sounds that make up his instrumentals. Now, not all songs contain this template, "Blue Bucket of Gold" for example is an incredible piano ballad that transforms itself into an airy colossal of stretched but faint vocal and synths layering on top. It's a wonderful and emotional ending. Lyrically, Sufjans style has always been rather abrupt, odd and to the point. Seemingly throwing out the rule book of what should be done and crafting his own style that has clearly aided him in achieving his success. His writing is profound and often touches on subjects such as loss, faith, and love. Over his tedious career, Sufjans' produced some of the most beautiful, and depressing songs in the genre (see "Casimir Pulaski Day") and Carrie & Lowell is full of tracks like that, gorgeous but emotional.
Carrie & Lowell is Sufjans best release since the early 2000's. Stevens has an incredible ability to make you drown in whatever he is feeling (in this case loss), and it's like an empathy swimming pool. Compared to his other releases, Sufjan stripped himself down quite a bit, most closely resembling his 2003 release, Greetings from Michigan. This release is depressing, emotional, funny, and charming, making it potentially his greatest release to date and an appropriate remembrence of his late mother. Sufjan has cemented himself as one of the greatest folk musicians of this generation, and maybe one of the greatest songwriters of all time.