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coverpic flag US - New York - Full Moon 227 - 03/05/15

Sufjan Stevens
No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross
Asthmatic Kitty Records

"No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross" is the first single from Sufjan Stevens' upcomimg Carrie & Lowell (due out March 31). Oh, boy, how I look forward to this one. This is Stevens' first album in almost 5 years (well, 4 1/2 - if not counting his second Xmas box, Silver & Gold, 2012) since the splendid The Age of Adz, a record which we here at LK HQ said to be '...a massive piece of work. If not a masterpiece work. Again.' The coming Carrie & Lowell could probably/quite possibly be another (even bigger?) masterpiece. Rumours are hot after Asthmatic Kitty arranged a number of headphone listening parties in record stores around the world. This record can't be bad, right? Just read:
'The Best Record Sufjan Stevens Has Ever Made, also known as Carrie & Lowell' (The Guardian)
'The most interesting musician in America right now' (Sunday Times)
'As important questions about music's worth in the age of free continue to swirl around him, Sufjan's still combating instant-gratification culture the best way he knows how.' (Pitchfork)
'Yet again this prodigal genius manages to confound expectations, confirming his place as modern music's most protean artist' (The Independent).

My first listen to "No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross" left me sort of, hmmm, what's this? Is it bleak and boring? Well, some tens of spinning the song later, thesong grows for every round I listen to it. Wow. This is a great song. And, it's for sure a dark song, despite the normal 'joy' in Sufjan's voice. The new album is named after his mother Carrie and stepfather Lowell, and the album (and "No Shade...") focuses on Stevens' feelings after his mother died in 2012. A mother who left him when he was a baby, who he didn't see a lot over the years. In an interview with Pitchfork recently (in mid-February) he was quite open on this topic, both on Carrie (who led a truobled life, suffering from depression, schizophrenia, alcoholism, being hoemless at times, etc.) and how he had dealt with growing up without a mother. Anyway, "No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross" is a brilliant and gripping acoustic song. It is heartachingly beautiful and the lyrics are dark and gloomy - as the lyrics of Sufjan quite often are. Usually they are fictional (fiction stories with clear pictures) or...

There's blood on that blade
Fuck me, I'm falling apart
My assassin, Like Casper the ghost
There's no shade in the shadow of the cross...

Despite the thematic, lyrical backdrop the song is uplifting, and it sounds very Sufjan Stvenes indeed. Like it could have been from almost any of his albums. I'm really looking forward to hear the entire Carrie & Lowell album. Can't wait, but it won't be long.

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You may also want to check out our Sufjan Stevens articles/reviews: All Delighted People EP, Blue Bucket of Gold (remix), Carrie & Lowell, Come on feel the Illinoise, Greetings From Michigan - The Great Lake State, Seven Swans, Silver & Gold, The Age of Adz, The Avalanche: Outtakes & Extras from Illinois Album, The BQE.

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