Since it was released back in 2015, Sufjan Stevens’s emotionally dense, beautifully self-aware, and stunning autobiographical masterpiece Carrie & Lowell has become an unparalleled expression of love and loss. A devious, sly, yet mostly lonely, reverential, and lovely creature, the album reveals itself to the listener in layers, and, if you’re highly susceptible to emotion, or can relate to Stevens’s subject matter in any way, each layer becomes more painful and more beautiful than the last. In fact, it seems like it has always been Stevens’s mission to make anything painful sound beautiful beyond what is humanly capable, and that’s exactly the case with “Wallowa Lake Monster,” the first tease of the upcoming supplemental album filled with outtakes, remixes, and demos from Carrie & Lowell. The track follows the same narrative of love, loss, and regret potent within the album, offering another otherworldly, almost transcendental narrative on the death his mother, as well as their troubled, strained relationship. Both piano and voice are somber and delicate, each trying not to overshadow the other, conveying a sense of mutual respect and admiration in signature Sufjan Stevens fashion. Though the track exists as a continuation of the solemn nature of its larger work, its clear that this is perhaps the most solemn of all, due to Stevens’s absolute acceptance that “no oblation will bring her back,” that he has seemingly understood everything within the span of its seven minutes. His breathy vocals periodically rise into a beautiful falsetto during certain parts of the verse, strained and tired in response, but beautiful all the same, greeted with a cacophony of angelic wails that seem to carry a lovely weight towards the heavens.
The Greatest Gift will be released 11/24 via Asthmatic Kitty.
photo courtesy of Asthmatic Kitty Records