Music Video to Watch: The Only Thing

This song from Sufjan Stevens’ latest album Carrie & Lowell is old news now, but maybe you haven’t seen this music video. It combines footage of a New Jersey family in the ’60s with Sufjan’s music in a way that bridges the gap between the intensely personal and the universal. Somehow you feel nostalgic about a family you never met. And all the while the troubling undercurrents of the singer’s own family life run through the lyrics. According to Pitchfork: “Carrie & Lowell is titled after Stevens’ mother and stepfather. Carrie was bipolar and schizophrenic and suffered from drug addiction and substance abuse. She died of stomach cancer in 2012, but had abandoned Stevens much earlier, first when he was 1, then later, repeatedly (“when I was three, three maybe four, she left us at that video store,” he sings on “Should Have Known Better”). His stepfather, Lowell Brams, was married to Carrie for five years when Sufjan was a child. As a testament to the importance of his role in Stevens’ life, Brams currently runs Stevens’ label,Asthmatic Kitty, and shows up repeatedly in the record, most poignantly on the title track, where Stevens frames those five years as his “season of hope.”