The Greatest Gift, Sufjan Stevens’s new mixtape — consisting of outtakes, remixes, and demos from his 2016 studio album Carrie & Lowell — is equal parts haunting and beautiful.
As winter arrives and the days get darker, melancholy music creeps its way back into that special place in our hearts. That place we’ve kept locked away during the summer season of pop anthems and EDM drops. November is well under way, and now is the time that indie-folk and alternative anthems reclaim their space, ruling our winters.
Sufjan Stevens has never been afraid to bear his heart to an audience. Even at his most thematic and theatrical–2005’s masterpiece Illinois–he wasn’t shy about including a line like “I cried myself to sleep last night” as the centerpiece of a song before asking the listener to question “are you writing from the heart?” But while Illinois buried its confessional nature amidst richly arranged baroque pop playgrounds, Carrie & Lowell is a thoroughly intimate affair; all you’ll find here are fluttering guitars, double-tracked vocals delivered with a whisper, and haunting synthesizer elegies bookending the album’s brisk tracks. It is an album that is simple and anguished to its very core.
Halloween is only a week away. Many people would say that it is a haunting time of year. Haunting is defined as “poignant and evocative; difficult to ignore or forget.” In that spirit, here are eight songs that are haunting in some or many aspects, but at the same time leave you in awe of their beauty; a different kind of Halloween song.