Sufjan Stevens crafts beautiful dark imagery on No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross

Wandering minstrel, American singer-songwriter extraordinaire Sufjan Stevens, knows how to craft a pretty grand tune. Blending fact with fiction, he draws on religion, myths, history and his own story to create amazing imagery-filled music. Roaming from his Age Of Adz electro-grooves and back to his Illinois folksie roots, he’s now set to release his seventh album Carrie & Lowell.

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens returns to the forefront with No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross. The dark imagery and low hum of his air con set the stage for the musch aniticipated Carrie & Lowell.

But, just a heads up, this one could be a bit on the unhappy side. Named after his mother and stepfather, his upcoming album tells the sad tale of Sufjan coming to grips with the recent death of his estranged mother. Suffering from alcoholism, depression and schizophrenia, she abandoned Sufjan when he was just one year old. Despite this, her death left a gaping hole in his life and he turned to drugs and alcohol as a way to fill it. But, thankfully, he soon decided there was a better way to channel his grief- make an album. And, if his first single is anything to go by, we’re in for some pretty deep, dark, soul-baring folk music.

Recorded in his Brooklyn apartment during summer, his first single No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross features his voice, his acoustic guitar and his air conditioner. Yes, you read correctly, his air conditioner. Humming along in the background, he chose to feature it in the song as a way to bring us deeper into his world of grief that endlessly whirls around him. And, it works. Between his whispery vocals, gentle guitar-strumming and the faint fan noise, you glimpse his hurt and confusion and really feel his pain.

Stripped-back and minimal in every way, this tune is strangely beautiful, despite its heavy subject matter. While melancholy lyrics about vampires, dragons, assassins and ghosts expose his darkest demons, the delicate melody simultaneously helps heal his pain. Echoing out of his Brooklyn apartment, this tune takes you on a reflective journey into mortality, and makes you question what the hell this whole life and death thing really means. Heavy, beautiful stuff from the wonderful mind of Sufjan.

Sure to be full of deep, dark, soul-baring folk tunes, Carrie & Lowell is being released to our Australian earholes on 3rd April. But, if you’re in Sydney on 10th March then you’re in for a treat- Sufjan is hosting a Worldwide Headphone Listening Tour where you can give the album a listen before any of your mates. Check out all the details here.