searchlight signal

favorite things about carrie & lowell:

  • the straining of his voice when he sings “i see the signal searchlight strike me in the window of my room / well, i got nothing to prove”
  • “i forgive you mother, i can hear you / and i long to be near you”
  • the surprising sweetness of “i’m light as a feather / i’m bright as the oregon breeze” in a song so full of regret
  • “my brother had a daughter, the beauty that she brings, illumination” and the way he sings it over and over and points heavenward when he plays it live
  • the little “oooh-ooh”s in all of me wants all of you
  • the percussion-heavy live version of all of me wants all of you which has such a moody feel in comparison to the album version
  • “but in this light you look like poseidon”
  • the sheer heavy sadness of drawn to the blood which makes it almost unbearable to listen to 
  • the impassive and underplayed way he sings possibly the most heartbreaking verse on the entire album: “the strength of his arm, my lover caught me off guard”
  • “for my prayer has always been love / what did i do to deserve this?”
  • the way he pronounces every word in “light struck from the lemon tree”
  • subaru
  • the live version of fourth of july he played this fall which genuinely changed my life
  • the background, the egc line that flatlines every time he sings “we’re all gonna die” 
  • the way he sings that line over and over for what seems like forever when he plays it live 
  • “shall we look at the moon, my little loon? why do you cry? make the most of your life, while it is rife, while it is light.”
  • everything about fourth of july 
  • “the only thing that keeps me from driving this car, half-light, jackknife, into the canyon at night / signs and wonders” 
  • the glorious soaring riff before “i want to save you from your sorrow”
  • the “three, four” at the beginning of carrie & lowell
  • the fact that you can hear the hotel air conditioner in the background of almost every song because he recorded so much on his phone in a hotel room in oregon
  • the vocal layering in carrie & lowell, the way the next line begins before he finishes the previous one
  • how the instrumentals sound the way dappled light and leaves look 
  • the white noise in john my beloved which is probably the hotel ac
  • the parallel to holy communion 
  • “in a matter of speaking i’m dead” vs “in a manner of speaking i’m dead”
  • “i love you more than the world can contain in its lonely and ramshackle head.” i have nothing to say 
  • “jesus i need you, be near me, come shield me from fossils that fall on my head”
  • no shade in the shadow of the cross. the desperation in the entire song, the grief, the hopelessness. the title, which makes me ache 
  • the throat-closing heavy despair in the way he sings “fuck me, i’m falling apart”
  • the “one, two, three” at the beginning of blue bucket of gold
  • the live setup of the song which feels like entering another dimension. like an out-of-body experience.
  • “lord, touch me with lightning.” even more, the way he pronounces “lord”
  • the way the last ten seconds of the album are silence 
Carrie & Lowell dropped one year ago today. Here are my favorite details.
  • Death With Dignity: the slight d sound he adds before “of” in the line “the signal searchlight strikes me in the window of my room;” he also adds a d sound before “five red hens”
  • Should Have Known Better: the utter contrast between the subsequent lines “I’m bright as the Oregon breeze” and “my black shroud”
  • the shimmer of the piano in the second half, emerging in between soft banjo and the patting percussion (with the intimacy of someone’s hands against their knees) - I feel like you can see the pained hope emerging out of his soul
  • the juxtaposition of meaning and nihilism in these lyrics: “explaining what I feel / that empty feeling”
  • the continuation of that juxtaposition with the concurrent images of illumination and extinguished meaning: “my brother had a daughter / the beauty that she brings, illumination / don’t back down, there is nothing left / the breakers in the bar, no reason to live” (this might be one of my favorite lyrical things on the album because it exemplifies sufjan’s approach to life: combining his latent irony with his energetic non-irony)
  • All Of Me Wants All Of You: the way that these lyrics indicate it was the speaker’s child-like tracing that triggered his realization of his subject’s emptiness: “traced your shadow with my shoe / empty outline changed my view / now all of me thinks less of you”
  • Drawn to the Blood: the sonic enjambment between the “how” and “God of Elijah,” between “how” and “heart of a dragon” - connecting such phrases, making them linked somehow, but also showing his utter confusion
  • Eugene: Subaru
  • “some part of me was lost in your sleeve where you hid your cigarettes” - how does he come up with these exquisite detailles
  • the image of the sprinkler as a fountain at which Sufjan can mark the evidence of something greater, echoing the “community water” 
  • Fourth of July: the confusion of the speaker - it’s his mother’s voice, but he is reflecting upon her death using the second person. He could also be calling his mother these tender names - you can sense the closeness between them in this enmeshing
  • the shuddering silence at the end
  • The Only Thing: I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the classic suf fingerpicking - it sounds mournful and hopeful all at once
  • the intimacy of the jackknifed car and the cut of his arm
  • “blind faith / God’s grace / nothing else left to impart” - this line echoes the weird juxtaposition of hope and nihilism in Should Have Known Better - you have the blindness, the mercy of grace, but then a hopeless lack of anything else to say - a very Sufjan line, yet one that also somehow hits you like a sledgehammer, it makes you want to believe
  • his voice nearly cracking with the violence of the ending repetition of tearing
  • Carrie & Lowell: the energy of the loping guitar, which nearly submerges the fear and horror of some of these memories
  • the soaring “Carrie come home!” …
  • John My Beloved: the breath at the end
  • No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross: the entire conceit of this song
  • the intimate AC in the background, probably recorded on his iPhone
  • the idea of Sufjan trying vainly to find shade in the shadow of something he believes in so desperately
  • “Fuck me,” desperate, accompanied by the straining of his voice in the high, long bits
  • Blue Bucket of Gold: “Just when I want you in my life” :( he’s speaking
  • shimmering mourning at the end
  • Live Versions: the sexy percussion in live All of Me Wants All Of You
  • the tender spaced-out fingerpicking and percussion in live Carrie & Lowell
  • And Of Course: the disco ball light show solo at the end of live Blue Bucket of Gold
  • Thank you Sufjan.