Song of the Hour: “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross” by Sufjan Stevens

[Disclaimer: The song features explicit language.]

Goodness, it’s so good to hear his voice again.

Stevens is no stranger to sad music, having crafted countless acoustic weepies over the course of his career. “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross” is different though. The song sounds about the same; put it next to “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” or “Heirloom”, and it fits right in. His voice is similarly breathy and melancholy, the finger-picking is on point, and the subject matter is suitably morose. But “No Shade” reaches separate depths from his other acoustic folk songs. For the first song, Stevens is giving us an unfettered look into his heart. His mother has died, and he’s turned to drugs for comfort. He knows the pills aren’t solving anything, but turning to God hasn’t made the pain go away either. Every time I listen to this song, it gets harder and harder not to hang my head and weep for him. I haven’t suffered much, but it’s hard to imagine a more accurate song about the pain of dealing with loss.

Sufjan Stevens’s new album, Carrie & Lowell, will release on March 30.

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