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Diane

Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell

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Found this welcome news from Asthmatic Kitty Records in my inbox this morning: 

 

We're proud to announce that on March 31st (March 30th in the EU) we'll be releasing Carrie & Lowell, a new Sufjan Stevens record. 

THESE ARE AGGRESSIVE TIMES. Each morning we awaken to a psychic blitz of breaking news, social outrage, and millions of images and voices shrieking look at me and this onslaught does not cease until late at night when the last glowing screen fades to black. This world demands our attention with one hand and destroys it with the other. That such a noisy age can deliver an album as graceful and honest as Carrie & Lowell should reassure anyone losing faith these days. Let no one say philosophy is dead, for here is a 44-minute meditation on mortality, memory, and faith.

Each track in this collection of eleven songs begins with a fragile melody that gathers steam until it becomes nothing less than a modern hymn. Sufjan recounts the indignities of our world, of technological distraction and sad sex, of an age without either myth or miracle—and this time around, his voice carries the burden of wisdom. Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait. If youth knew, if age could.

Our limited edition first pressing is in clear colored vinyl, which is available for preorder now. It's also available in black vinyl, CD, and digital. The first single, "No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross," arrives mid-February. You can be one of the first to hear it by preordering the album on iTunes or Bandcamp.

Thanks to Pitchfork who premiered the trailer today. We also put the trailer on a little website along with a write-up and pre-order links. Visit the website by clicking below.

VISIT carrieandlowell.com
   

 

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The only thing cooler than a new Sufjan Stevens album is hearing from Diane!  Happy New Year, Diane!

Seconded!

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Aw, shucks, you folks are too kind (and happy belated new year to you, too, Russ!).

 

Jeffrey, that's hilarious. One of my first interactions with my husband took place years ago on a film forum when he posted a Diane/Twin Peaks reference after one of my posts and I had absolutely no idea what he was referring to. 

 

But anyway, I don't want to hijack this thread, so back to Sufjan. The Guardian is already referring to this as his best album, and also mentioning that "it’s less like Age of Adz in its poise and demeanour, more Seven Swans or Illinoise…" I have a backwards relationship with his music. It was actually Adz that really pulled me in and made me a fan, and then I got into the earlier albums. Seven Swans is a gem, so it's nice to see this comparison.

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You can find a song from the new album, called "No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross", here.

Edited by John

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Interview with Sufjan on P4K mentioning, pretty assuredly — his spirituality:

 

http://pitchfork.com/features/interviews/9595-true-myth-a-conversation-with-sufjan-stevens/

 

 

 

Pitchfork: Did your dad and stepmom impose Christianity onto you when you were young?

SS: No, they weren't that religious at that time. We would go to Methodist church, because that's what my great grandmother attended. I was the acolyte in charge of lighting the candles, which was really exciting to me. I had this childhood fantasy of becoming a priest or a preacher, so I would read and study the bible and then make my family listen to me read a passage from the New Testament before meals—and they very begrudgingly accommodated that for a while. I was just fascinated; some of my most profound spiritual and sexual experiences were at a Methodist summer camp.

Pitchfork: As in much of your work, there are references to Christianity and mythology on this album. What does faith mean to you at this point?

SS: I still describe myself as a Christian, and my love of God and my relationship with God is fundamental, but its manifestations in my life and the practices of it are constantly changing. I find incredible freedom in my faith. Yes, the kingdom of Christianity and the Church has been one of the most destructive forces in history, and there are levels of bastardization of religious beliefs. But the unique thing about Christianity is that it is so amorphous and not reductive to culture or place or anything. It's extremely malleable.

Pitchfork: Couldn't you say that about most religions though?

SS: Yeah, but some of them are cultural and require an allegiance to a place and a code. We live in a post-God society anyway—embrace it! [laughs]

 

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http://pitchfork.com/features/interviews/9595-true-myth-a-conversation-with-sufjan-stevens/

 

 

 

SS: I still describe myself as a Christian, and my love of God and my relationship with God is fundamental, but its manifestations in my life and the practices of it are constantly changing. I find incredible freedom in my faith. Yes, the kingdom of Christianity and the Church has been one of the most destructive forces in history, and there are levels of bastardization of religious beliefs. But the unique thing about Christianity is that it is so amorphous and not reductive to culture or place or anything. It's extremely malleable.

 

 

You know, this is probably passe and all that, but when I read comments like this ("the kingdom of Christianity...most destructive forces in history") and its tie back to Christianity's amorphous irreducibility I just react with a kind of giant eye roll.  Isn't this perspective one that is already reducing Christianity to one's culture?  Isn't it a mark of our current sociological views that individuality is the dominant lens with which to view the world, that power systems are inherently corrupt and corrupting of those within them, and that one's expression and experience of faith is both fundamental to faith itself and that personal relationship is the key driver of true religious practice. 

 

To me it seems the same kind of "spiritual but not religious" claims of pop culture and "rescuing Christ from Christianity" assertions of the academy that fails to deal with the real essence of what the biblical witness is actually all about.  Accept it, reject it, whatever, but don't call it all separate from culture and then use your own cultural baggage to declare it so.

 

This is not to ignore that the church has blood on its hands, but to say a corrective to this perspective is needed and a challenge to address data and facts is not to dismiss them altogether as interpretation. 

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I don't mean to derail the thread, and of course, Stevens' own beliefs and motivations are an integral part of his art.  I just got a bee in my bonnet after reading the Pitchfork interview.  I do applaud the interviewer for ever so gently pushing back on the answer he got, even if it was left loose there at the end.

Edited by Buckeye Jones

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Listening to this now - it is very pretty and  sad. One blogger writes: "the closest we're ever gonna get to Sufjan ever coming out." I don't want this to be a big deal in my review, and I know we've talked about it here before, but I can't help but wonder if that is going to be significant in the critical reception of this record.

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Listening to this now - it is very pretty and  sad. One blogger writes: "the closest we're ever gonna get to Sufjan ever coming out." I don't want this to be a big deal in my review, and I know we've talked about it here before, but I can't help but wonder if that is going to be significant in the critical reception of this record.

 

Would that blogger be My New Plaid Pants [link goes directly to post, which is SFW. I make no such promises for any other posts on the site]? That blogger points specifically to the song "John My Beloved."

 

The post includes the second single off the album, "Should Have Known Better":

 

 

I like it. Age of Adz--and even All Delighted People--didn't stick with me like I thought they would, but I may have to pick up this album all the same.

 

BTW, here are our threads on:

All Delighted People

Age of Adz (discussion of possible gay themes starts here)

Songs for Christmas

Sufjan Stevens?!?

Edited by NBooth

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Yeah, I honestly thought he was just messing with people's expectations on the last record with the homoromanticism, but...while he could still be writing in character, he's not letting up.

 

Also: this exists.

Edited by Holy Moly!

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This record feels extremely personal (in fact, I thought the last one was pretty personal, but the aesthetic of this one underscores the autobiographical element much more), for sure. Christianity Today wants me to turn my review into more of a thinkpiece on what evangelicals want from an artist like Stevens. I think I'll actually draw on our conversation about Age of Adz, which I just reread. Some good thoughts there.

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It does seem super personal.  Acoustic guitars tend to signify "personal/confessional" modes even when it's not true, but putting your parents on the cover of the record is pretty next level.

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I was not aware of this, but Sufjan played Cyndi Lauper's annual LGBT youth charity benefit last December, which again, says nothing about the guy personally (except that he's charitable-minded, huzzah!) but does demonstrate that the boundaries of what's possible for an american artist with a large Christian following continue to expand.

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Now streaming in its entirety at NPR First Listen.

 

Listening now. It's much less cluttered, soundwise, than Age of Adz. And, yeah, it sounds a lot more confessional--and quite homoerotic in spots. There's certainly something going on in "Heart of a Dragon":

 

The strength of his arm
My lover caught me off guard
How? Head of a rabbit
How? Head of a rabbit
 
For my prayer has always been love
What did I do to deserve this?

 

 Overall--and this is first impression, and I'm fully aware of how malleable those can be--I like this album a lot.

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I think I'm somewhere between 6 and 10 listens, and I have to say I still think it's a gorgeous record. It's pretty great to hear Stevens get economical with his songwriting.

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Listening now. Track 1 just finished. SHOULD I POST MY TRACK-BY-TRACK ANALYSIS? :) Seriously, I'm glad this one is streaming. I hope it doesn't make me want to curl up in the fetal position in the corner of my office. I have work to do.

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