by Andrew Sacher

Sufjan

There are several references to places within Oregon throughout Carrie & Lowell; it's where Stevens spent three summers, between ages 5 and 8, with his mother and stepfather. These early memories are not just important because they came at a formative point in Stevens' life--they're actually some of the only recollections he has of his mother, who abandoned his family when he was just a year old. Her five-year marriage to Lowell Brams in the early '80s seemingly marked a high-point in a life struck by hardship; Carrie suffered from depression, schizophrenia, and alcoholism, and her contact with Stevens and his siblings, who grew up in Michigan with their dad and stepmother, was intermittent up until her death. [Pitchfork]

Sufjan Stevens is a week away from releasing his new album, Carrie & Lowell (due 3/31 via Asthmatic Kitty), and he's now streaming it in full. It's his most bare-bones album yet, with little more than acoustic guitar, piano and atmospheric textures; and also one of his heaviest lyrically. Much of the album is about the death of his mother Carrie, who as the quote above from Pitchfork's feature on the album points out, didn't have much contact with Sufjan throughout his life. "It was so terrifying to encounter death and have to reconcile that, and express love, for someone so unfamiliar," he said. "Her death was so devastating to me because of the vacancy within me. I was trying to gather as much as I could of her, in my mind, my memory, my recollections, but I have nothing."

Listen to the album at NPR or below via The Guardian. Also, catch Sufjan on tour soon.

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