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Convocations moves like a two-and-a-half-hour requiem mass for our present times of difficulty, its 49 tracks allowing for all these feelings to be felt. The album is divided into five sonic cycles, each replicating a different stage of mourning. Convocations occasionally soothes and sometimes hurts; when it’s done, you’re left with a renewed sense of wonder for being here at all.
Stevens made Convocations in response to (and as an homage to) the life and death of his biological father, who died in September last year, two days following the release of The Ascension. It is, then, ultimately an album about loss, and an album that reflects a year in which we have all lost so much. One could easily compare this project to Stevens’ album Carrie & Lowell, which he wrote following his mother’s death. But this is something entirely different. A new time, a new season, a new life lost, a new reckoning, a new kind of isolation, grief, despair, frustration, confusion, and the search for happiness and hope for the future. This is not a personal record, but a universal one. Convocations is built on a shared experience that seeks to be honest about how complicated grief can be in these difficult times—the pain, the anxiety, the unknown, the absolute joy of memory. This is also an album made in lockdown, when we were all cloistered in whatever space we had. So long as the science and statistics hold, Convocations arrives just as we begin to emerge from a year whose losses we will calculate for a lifetime. It is, then, right on time, as we begin to process our grief and try to carry on with it.