The states of life and death, ex­plored

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC REVIEWS - LAU­REN MUR­PHY

If there’s one thing that you can’t ac­cuse Suf­jan Stevens of, it’s ho­mo­gene­ity. The Detroit-born indie-folk de­ity has con­sis­tently keep his fan­base on their toes, plun­der­ing the depths of hushed, in­ti­mate sto­ry­telling folk on

Seven Swans, rev­el­ling in elec­tronic pop on The Age of Adz, dab­bling in hip-hop with his Sisy­phus side-project, and flirt­ing with the main­stream – or as close as he will get – on Illi­nois. He is not an easy artist to clas­sify.

Stevens’ sev­enth stu­dio al­bum re­veals yet an­other facet of his canon. In­formed by the death of his mother in 2012 – and named for her and his step-fa­ther, the co-founder of his Asth­matic Kitty la­bel – Car­rie & Low­ell is an in­ti­mate por­trait of death, love and mor­tal­ity.

At times, th­ese songs are un­bear­ably in­ti­mate; open­ing track Death With Dig­nity paints such a painfully evoca­tive im­age of the in­evitable, yet is kept afloat by the lithe, del­i­cately plucked gui­tar notes that dance un­der Stevens’ hushed vo­cals. It feels al­most in­tru­sive to lis­ten to Eu­gene, a dap­pled snap­shot of a child­hood hol­i­day, or the self-re­flec­tive tur­moil of Fourth of July. The sad songs go hand in hand with Steven’s own re­flec­tions on love, as heard on All of Me Wants All of You, his lyrics read­ing more and more like po­etry with each al­bum.

An overblown sound­track would not have been suit­able for th­ese in­ner­most pro­fes­sions. As such, the ma­jor­ity of th­ese songs are led by sim­ple acous­tic gui­tar, oc­ca­sion­ally al­low­ing a faint pat­ter of elec­tron­ica ( John My Beloved), pi­ano riff ( My Blue Bucket) or soft sweep of strings ( Drawn to the Blood) to seep through. It’s an al­bum that you’ll need time to process, but it’s an achingly beau­ti­ful trib­ute. suf­janstevens.com

SUF­JAN STEVENS Car­rie & Low­ell Asth­matic Kitty

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