Thursday, 23 July 2015

Art of the Cover - Sufjan Stevens' "Carrie & Lowell" (2015)


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what's the point of singing songs if they'll never even hear you?


A lovely, decades-old, photograph of the titular Carrie and Lowell - Sufjan's mother and stepfather (no, that's not a young Larry David!) - adorns this dark but beautiful and haunting collection.

More regarding the artwork below.

Yap, Sufjan Stevens is back with the magnificent, dark Carrie & Lowell, the follow-up to 2010's acclaimed The Age of Adz.

An album that poetically copes with death — a painful and lovely reminder that great art comes from pain, and a pointer as to why Stevens has endured so long and so well as an important and unique artist.



Sufjan Stevens' “Carrie & Lowell” -- an album that poetically copes with death --  is a painful and lovely reminder that great art comes from pain, and it’s a reminder of why he’s endured as an artist.


Sufjan Stevens' new album, Carrie & Lowell, is his best. This is a big claim, considering his career: 2003's Michigan, 2004's stripped-down Seven Swans, 2005's Illinois, and 2010's knotty electro-acoustic collection The Age of Adz. He's also had residencies at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, collaborated with rappers and the National, donned wings and paint-splattered dayglo costumes, and released Christmas albums. But none of those side projects were ultimately ever as interesting, or effective, as when Sufjan was just Sufjan, a guy with a guitar or piano, well-detailed lyrics, and a gorgeous whisper that could reach into a heartbreaking falsetto.

Part of what makes Carrie & Lowell so great is that it comes after all of those things - the wings, the orchestras—but it feels like you're hearing him for the first time again, and in his most intimate form. This record is a return to the sparse folk of Seven Swans, but with a decade's worth of honing and exploration packed into it. It already feels like his most classic and pure effort. 
pitchfork.com










“Carrie & Lowell” is named for his mother and stepfather, but this album is more about mom. She left him as a baby, and then came and went years after that while she struggled with depression, schizophrenia and addiction. On “Should Have Known Better,” he remembers, “When I was three - three, maybe four - she left us at the video store.” And throughout these songs, he tries to cope with what happens when she’s really gone for good. “Carrie & Lowell”’s most direct and devastating moment, “Fourth of July,” describes being with his mother when she died. He calls her pet names like “my little hawk,” “my star in the sky” and “my dragonfly,” and finally trails off with the repeated line, “we’re all gonna die.” This album is crushingly sad. . 
.... His story and his heartbreak might be unique, but he’s succeeded beautifully in making the pain feel very familiar.
heyreverb.com

Sufjan Stevens' “Carrie & Lowell” -- an album that poetically copes with death --  is a painful and lovely reminder that great art comes from pain, and it’s a reminder of why he’s endured as an artist.


A while back, Steven's label Asthmatic Kitty put together an explainer, posted on Reddit, that shows how the vinyl edition was mastered and packaged.




Above is the album cover and inner sleeve.

The cover is a photograph of the titular Carrie and Lowell - Stevens' mother and stepfather.


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The inner sleeve shows a young and dapper Sufjan eating a banana at the breakfast table, as mom hovers behind.




The album's back cover features another nice shot of Carrie and (a bit of) Lowell.





Above is the lyric sheet - which surely, some intrepid Stevens fans had magnified to 100x and had been poring over for weeks!

The label points out that the lyric sheet features the songs out of order from the way they actually appear on the album.


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Tracklisting

Side A
  1. "Death with Dignity" – 3:59
  2. "Should Have Known Better" – 5:07
  3. "All of Me Wants All of You" – 3:41
  4. "Drawn to the Blood" – 3:18
  5. "Fourth of July" – 4:39

Side B
  1. "The Only Thing" – 4:44
  2. "Carrie & Lowell" – 3:14
  3. "Eugene" – 2:26
  4. "John My Beloved" – 5:04
  5. "No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross" – 2:40
  6. "Blue Bucket of Gold" – 4:43














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