MAGNET’s #8 Album Of 2015: Sufjan Stevens’ “Carrie & Lowell”

SufjanStevens

After a decade and a half of holding it down as indie’s resident maximalist (try finding a review of Illinois that doesn’t mention how many instruments he plays), Sufjan Stevens stripped it all back for the starkest, most understated and best album of his career. Accompanied throughout by little more than his own acoustic guitar, banjo, piano and the occasional synthesizer, Stevens attempts to reconcile the passing of his estranged late mother with remarkable candor and poise. All of Stevens’ strong suits are on full display here, most prominently his ability to imbue even the most minute details with uncannily mythic qualities—though they’re rendered all the more compelling this time around by the very evident fact that these are much more than just sad, whimsical stories about Flint, Mich., or an especially fateful “Casimir Pulaski Day.” He never gets lost in the subject matter, though, and as with all of his best work, Carrie & Lowell finds a compelling balance between the devastating emotional specifics of personal loss and the universal feelings of grief, sorrow and regret that accompany it. —Möhammad Choudhery