THE Age of Adz, Sufjan Stevens’ last studio album, surely ranks among the most preposterous and brilliantly overblown in recent memory.
His latest, on the other hand, could scarcely be further removed, and instead marks a return to the fragile folk which characterised 2003’s Seven Swans.
What’s most striking, however, isn’t its sound but rather its subject matter, with each song written in memory of his late mother Carrie, an alcoholic schizophrenic who walked out on the family when Sufjan was but a year old (Lowell, meanwhile, is his loyal stepfather).
It’s a harrowing backstory, but the tone here is not only one of grief, but also forgiveness.
The effect is heart-stopping, with sparse instrumentation and unflinching lyrics crafting a eulogy whose stark, haunting beauty will stir even the hardiest of souls.
It’s not the first - nor will it be the last - masterpiece defined by loss, but the sheer emotional weight of Carrie & Lowell makes it the finest hour in Stevens’ already remarkable catalogue. 9/10. AW