One of 2015’s best albums was Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell, a sparse, stripped down recording that explored Stevens’ difficult relationship with his mother Carrie, who suffered from mental illness and addiction, and abandoned her family when Stevens was a baby. As I wrote in my review, Carrie & Lowell “is essentially Sufjan’s attempt to come to terms with her death, to make sense of her abandonment, and ultimately, find a place of peace and forgiveness.”
Earlier this week, Asthmatic Kitty released Carrie & Lowell Live, a live recording from November 2015. And now, the video of that same performance is streaming in its entirety. According to Asthmatic Kitty’s notes:
The show, which was designed by Marc Janowitz, incorporated an expansive lighting display and cathedral-like LED columns featuring home videos shot by Sufjan’s maternal grandfather, Nick Marabeas. Much of this vintage footage highlights family birthdays, graduations, and weddings of Carrie and her siblings from the late 1940s through the early 1970s, lending the performances the emotional arc of a memorial, celebrating Carrie’s life and meditating on her death with a sweeping transcendence that gave testament to Sufjan’s central thesis of mourning: that in spite of death, we must go on living in fullness and joy.
I’ve only been able watch a few minutes of the concert to date, but what I’ve seen is definitely an otherworldly experience, musically and visually, due to the footage being shot through various filters that give the performance an abstract, psychedelic cast. And yes, the concert does culminate in a cover of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” (complete with the obligatory dance moves).
Because this is Sufjan Stevens we’re talking about, and if he can weave Joy Division into a Christmas song, he can certainly weave Drake into an album about death and mourning.