Album Review | Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Should I tear my eyes out now?
Everything I see returns to you somehow
Should I tear my heart out now?
Everything I feel returns to you somehow

Growing up, I wanted things. I wanted a basketball and a hoop in my own driveway. I wanted a stereo system with power. I wanted CDs, I wanted books, I wanted baseball cards, and I wanted Nintendo games.

Now, all I really want is love.

And with Sufjan Stevens’ new album, Carrie & Lowell, I really don’t know where to begin. The kind of love Stevens writes about here is not necessarily current, although it explores every form possible: it’s mostly for his mother who died of stomach cancer in 2012.

“I forgive you, mother, I can hear you,” Stevens sings on the beautiful opening track, “Death With Dignity.” “Every road leads to an end . . . you’ll never see us again,” Stevens concludes.

If I’ve learned anything about love these past few years, it’s that it’s mostly about saying goodbye. Say what you will, but nothing lasts forever, and the memory of love isn’t the same as being in its center, where it pushes, pulls, and turns in every direction. A memory only goes one way: back.

“I should have known better / Nothing can be changed / The past is still the past / The bridge to nowhere.” Those are Stevens’ words on “Should Have Known Better,” a sparse offering on how to cope when love leaves — when there is nothing left. “I should have wrote a letter explaining what I feel,” Stevens sings. Here, love is regret.

The most harrowing moments come during “Fourth of July,” perhaps the saddest song I have heard in the last few years. I have said that about other songs, but I mean it this time: it brought me to tears just last night. So I’m just going to leave you now with some its words, because it’s only right. (Also, buy this album. Today.)

Did you get enough love, my little dove
Why do you cry?
And I’m sorry I left, but it was for the best
Though it never felt right
My little Versailles

The hospital asked should the body be cast
Before I say goodbye, my star in the sky
Such a funny thought to wrap you up in cloth
Do you find it all right, my dragonfly?

Shall we look at the moon, my little loon
Why do you cry?
Make the most of your life, while it is rife
While it is light

Well you do enough talk
My little hawk, why do you cry?
Tell me what did you learn from the Tillamook burn?
Or the Fourth of July?
We’re all gonna die

We’re all gonna die
We’re all gonna die.

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