Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell (Live)

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell (Live)

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Sufjan Stevens has done us all a favour. When the Trumpian apocalypse comes, when we’re sitting in our homemade shelter, when we’ve used up our final Nespresso capsule, and when the bars on our iPhone disappear for the very last time, then we can still put on Carrie & Lowell and realise that someone, somewhere is worse off than we are. For Carrie & Lowell is the ultimate feel-bad album. There’s not a moment of even faintly uplifting sentiment, never mind outright comic relief. Question: “What did you learn from Tillermook burn, or the Fourth of July? Answer: “We’re all gonna die”. Turning an album like Carrie & Lowell into a live show seems like one of those things artists do when they’re trying to escape from a major-label contract because of artistic differences. Yet, this is Sufjan Stevens. He runs the record label. More importantly, he also knows how to put on a live show. That’s not to say he turns the most maudlin album of 2015 into an all-singing, all-dancing musical extravaganza, but he does know how to play with tempo, pitch, and harmony to bring out the best of any material. Live, the original songs lose none of their intimacy. The creak of what seems to be the piano seat can be heard. But they also gain in stature. The orchestration is fuller. The song order is also slightly rearranged to create a little more drama. And a couple of non-album songs are added. Carrie & Lowell was already one of the great albums of the 2010s. This version complements it perfectly. It’s no fun fair, to be sure. But it is human life. Question: “What did you learn from Tillermook burn, or the Fourth of July? Answer: “We’re all gonna die”.

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