Few musicians have dipped into as many genres as the almost 40-year-old Sufjan Stevens has. But not even Stevens himself has come close to this area of darkness before.
The best way to describe Stevens' latest album, "Carrie and Lowell," is a morbid wasteland of emotion—not much of a pleasant listen. Even Lou Reed's most bleak work, Berlin (1973), wasn't half as painful to get through as Carrie and Lowell.
In the first song, "Death With Dignity", it feels as though a little Nick Drake is shined in, while the sparse guitar and backing vocals create a Lou Reed feel. Unfortunately, the dark, emotional depth left me alienated and uncomfortable.
Lyrically, Stevens does a marvelous job. However, musically nothing is remarkable. The album has a polarizing effect on the listener, especially how it dips in quality in the latter part. The sparseness is still prevalent, but a good deal of the lyrics are omitted.
After listening to his album for the past several days nonstop, a cloud has formed in my mind that will probably take weeks to dissipate. It's one thing to be emotionally honest, but death is death, and to call Stevens' latest a beauty is laughable. The project is a haunting gem, a stark reminder. Grim, but definitely not beautiful. Not an album for everyone, but an incredible delve into the darkness that no amount of Christmas albums can fix.