Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell [Folk / Pop]
This is very easily one of the best albums, if not the best album, of the year.
Sound: Very dynamic mastering, with each track averaging DR10. This is a given, though, as the album barely features drums and it's mostly ethereal vocals and banjo or fingerpicked guitar. Still, it's pure audio gold in its simplicity.
Songwriting: Every song is MELODIC AS FUCK. While it's hard to pick a single track, every song flows beautifully into the next, with just enough experimentation with electronic sounds, ambient notes and respective instruments like piano or bass guitars weaving in and out. Despite the relative accessibility of every song, the song structures aren't the same. Every song is distinct, but never takes away from the overall melancholy of the album, so the songs are beautiful on their own and as a part of the album. Very rare to see in music these days.
Instruments: Again, very varied and all very tastefully implemented. The vocals are double-tracked for the most part and really sound private and comfortable.
Overall: The greatest strength of the album is its earnestness. Everything sounds raw and intimate, and none of the songs overstay their welcome. The songs are very tight and fat-free and the album doesn't feel like its 44 minutes long. Album is perfect for introspection on those long bus rides. I award this album 5 stars, because it's really the one of the most outstanding record I have heard this year.