Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Carrie & Lowell - First Impressions

iTunes reminded me this morning that Sufjan Stevens new album Carrie & Lowell comes out today! So far, I'm very intrigued. I'm also very glad he decided to go back to his Illinois, Michigan roots and is playing the music (I think) he should and needs to play. This is Stevens first album in five years. Here's a rundown of the songs...

"Death with Dignity" - The one thing I take away from this are the lyrics - damn they're dark. This album IS about his mentally unstable mother and stepfather, after all (Sufjan really likes concept albums, as do I). "I forgive you, mother, I can hear you/ And I long to be near you/ But every road leads to an end/ Yes, every road leads to an end."

"Should Have Known Better" - Eerie but also strangely pleasant...sounds like Sufjan to me.

"All of Me Wants All of You" - The intro sounded a little Pink Floyd to me...and then he starts signing. Already after the third song, I'm sensing his lyrics are more honest than they've ever been before. I feel like he usually tries to tell a grandiose story in his lyrics, some of it coming from his life, some of it totally made up in his awesomely weird mind. But he's talking about masturbation in this song (which is totally taboo for him, he likes to stay innocent, Holden Caulfield style,) he's talking about the time his mom left him at the video store when he was little in "I Should Have Known Better". Is Sufjan growing up or what? The Pitchfork interview (that I linked above,) is proving to be very accurate. This is definitely one of his filler "A Short Reprise for Mary Todd, Who Went Insane, but for Very Good Reasons" intermission songs he likes to do.

"Drawn to the Blood" - This one is good...the end is interesting. It sounds like the end of the Lawrence Welk show or maybe the end of Jurassic Park...they're interchangeable though, right?

"Eugene" -This is obviously about the summers he spent camping in Eugene, Oregon with his siblings, Carrie & Lowell. In the Pitchfork interview, Stevens explains that those trips are his best memories of his mother. He felt the closest to her during those camping trips. After every verse he says, "I just want to be near you." Again, I'm very surprised how brutally honest he is on this album - he never usually is. Also, here's a fun fact: Stevens actually TRAVELED to Eugene during the recording of this album, stayed in a hotel for a couple of days and recorded some of these songs on his iphone. Because he's crazy. But I love it.

"Fourth of July" - A song about his mother's death - she died in 2012 from stomach cancer. This was the catalyst for Stevens to create this album because when she died, he felt very empty and a lot of regret - "And I’m sorry I left, but it was for the best/ Though it never felt right/ My little Versailles" he sings what she told him about leaving his father and siblings when he was 1.Very dark. But very good.

"The Only Thing" - "I wonder did you love me at all?" he says. Another lyric that stands out - "The only thing that keeps me from cutting my arm/ Cross hatch, warm bath, Holiday Inn after dark/ Signs and wonders: water stain writing the wall/ Daniel’s message; blood of the moon on us all." SHIT. Basically, the entire song is terribly sad and very real. This is obviously coming from a dark period in his life, more than likely when he was suicidal (which he's said before that he was at one point, I'm not making assumptions here, it's all in the Pitchfork interview). "The only reason why I continue at all/ Faith in reason, I wasted my life playing dumb." *CRIES*

"Carrie & Lowell" - This sounds very whimsical and light - a touch of "Chicago" is in there. The lyrics are basically about his mother and stepfather's relationship. Another fun fact, his stepfather, Lowell co-runs Stevens record company Asthmatic Kitty. Lowell has always been somewhat of a father figure to him and a positive in his life. Even though he lived with his biological father most of his life, Stevens didn't get along with him, describing him as being conservative, religious and generally emotionless. It makes sense he would keep Lowell around, even though he and Carrie were only married for five years.

"John My Beloved" - I want to know who John is. I've tried to find out, can't find anything. If anyone knows, leave it in the comments. It could just be a reference to religion. This song is probably the most religious on the album.

"No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross" -"Fuck me, I'm falling apart," he says. Again, the cursing! The talking about masturbation! Who is this and what has he done with Sufjan Stevens? The Sufjan I discovered 10 years ago would never talk like that! Where's the soap...just kidding, I think it's awesome.

"Blue Bucket of Gold" - Very mellow, very Seven Swans. A good end to an amazing achievement for Sufjan (that is this album).

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