After The Age of Adz, I lost all hope that Stevens would ever return to the hushed folk he perfected on his best album, 2004’s Seven Swans. Although this record is more like that anything else he’s done, it’s also entirely its own thing by nature of its concept. Crafted in response to his mother’s death, Carrie and Lowell is exactly the about-face you’d expect from the grieving and inconsolable emotional pain that’s a response to the loss of a loved one. The music is purposely stark: lone acoustic guitar and piano (and, this being Stevens, also banjo), occasionally recorded on an iPhone. Of course it’s depressing, bleak and cathartic, but also gorgeous, redemptive and at times, even catchy. It’s a bit of a coup to have as one of your biggest hooks the lyric, “We’re all gonna die”; Stevens reminds us he’s a big enough talent to get away with it.
Favorite tracks: “Should Have Known Better”, “Fourth of July”, “The Only Thing”, “John My Beloved”
“Fourth of July”: