“I should have known better” shouldn’t be anyone’s life mantra, but in a beautifully melancholy way, it works wonders for Sufjan Stevens’s newest single from his upcoming album Carrie & Lowell. It’s a stripped-down track — the instrumentation is solely acoustic for the first half of the song — to accompany the stripped-down and personal lyrics about Stevens’s dysfunctional relationship with his mother, who abandoned the family when he was a one-year-old and stayed absent from his life until her death in 2012. Rightfully so, these lyrics are in the spotlight. Stevens strips down whatever emotional walls he might have built up in the absence of maternal love; they’re revealing, yet they clearly sound like an attempt at closure.
“Should Have Known Better” is a fantastically sad song to listen to when you’re down in the dumps or ecstatic about life. (But mostly the former.) Stevens is performing a sold-out show at the DAR Constitution Hall on May 5.