Sufjan Stevens: "No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross"

Sufjan Stevens performs on stage for Bime 2014 at Bilbao Exhibition Centre on November 1, 2014 Credit: Jordi Videl/Getty

Indie folk auteur Sufjan Stevens is already a master at musical vulnerability, but on the first single off his upcoming album Carrie & Lowell — named for his mother and stepfather — Stevens finds a strikingly fresh way to rip open his wounds for the world. On the atmospheric "No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross," Stevens is in peak form, melding religious imagery with heart-wrenching allusions to his short-lived relationship with his mother. Guided by the gentle finger-picking of a guitar, the track moves like the impending gloom of an overcast day and sounds just as morose and picturesque as one.