Home > News & Reviews > Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens - The Greatest Gift (Album Review)

Thursday, 30 November 2017 Written by Ben Gallivan

It might comprise a selection of remixes, unreleased tracks and stripped back demos relating to 2015’s ‘Carrie & Lowell’, but Sufjan Stevens’ ‘The Greatest Gift’ is strong enough to stand as an album in its own right.

‘Carrie & Lowell’ was an experiment in love and forgiveness following the death of Stevens’ mother and it found him grappling with overwhelming emotions. It was his most personal and heartfelt record to date. ‘The Greatest Gift’, while not a traditional b-sides and rarities collection, can be seen as a companion piece, showcasing different takes of much of the last record.

‘Carrie & Lowell’ was very much a departure from the albums that had preceded it. Released five years after ‘The Age of Adz’, it saw Stevens eschewing much of that record’s electronic trickery and getting back to the sparse instrumental roots of his earlier work, in particular 2003’s ‘Michigan’.

That makes the remixes here particularly interesting. No fewer than half a dozen tracks get the treatment, while Drawn to The Blood is worked over twice. It’s Stevens’ own interpretation that shines brightest.

The first of two remixes by Roberto Carlos Lange (aka Helado Negro) finds Death With Dignity given a distant feel; it’s not a million miles away from the original but that extra dimension works beautifully, as it does down the line on All of Me Wants All of You.

Doveman’s remix of Exploding Whale is also an album highlight, and a welcome addition as it previously only featured on a now hard-to-find 7”. The undisputed champion, though, is the 900x remix of Fourth of July. Perhaps the most dramatic of all the mixes, it turns a delicate tune into something more intense and menacing thanks to a driving electronic beat alongside added atmosphere to the vocals. For something classified as a mixtape, ‘The Greatest Gift’ offers a sometimes seamless reimagining rather than a stop-start trawl.

Of the unreleased songs, Wallowa Lake Monster opens things with Stevens’ fractured vocal paradoxically soaring over minimal instrumentation, while the title track is both stripped back and shimmering in its delivery. But, as much as ‘The Greatest Gift’ could be easily interpreted as a new Sufjan Stevens album for those unaware of its forerunner, it holds more weight when listened back to back with ‘Carrie & Lowell’.

The intricacies and quirks that accompany these new mixes really come to the fore in that configuration, with even the seemingly throwaway iPhone demos (John My Beloved, Carrie & Lowell) demanding repeat listening and comparison with the finished articles. A delightful aside while the wait for new material continues.

Let Us Know What You Think - Leave A Comment!

Related News

Sufjan Stevens Shares Two New Songs Love Yourself And With My Whole Heart
Wed 29 May 2019
Sufjan Stevens has returned with two new singles in celebration of Pride Month.
Sufjan Stevens To Release Call Me By Your Name Songs For Record Store Day
Fri 23 Feb 2018
Sufjan Stevens will release the three songs he contributed to Luca Guadagnino's film, Call Me By Your Name, on 10inch vinyl for Record Store Day.
Sufjan Stevens Shares Video For Life With Dignity Helado Negro Remix
Wed 10 Jan 2018
Sufjan Stevens has shared a video for the Life With Dignity Helado Negro remix.
Bombay Bicycle Club Add Second Dublin Show To 2020 Tour Due To Demand
Fri 13 Sep 2019
Bombay Bicycle Club have added an extra date to their upcoming live plans.
What's Your First Line Going To Be? The Futureheads Discuss Their Long-Awaited Return With 'Powers'
Tue 27 Aug 2019
The stars of mid-2000s indie discos are frozen in time in the memories of a lot of people—their music might as well be an advert for sticky floors and test tube shots. And that’s where the Futureheads, who had a couple of songs that were students’ union staples, might still reside in the eyes of some.
Ezra Furman - Twelve Nudes (Album Review)
Wed 04 Sep 2019
Seeking to stay true to a punk aesthetic, Ezra Furman and band recorded ‘Twelve Nudes’ at a rapid pace with creative help from booze and cigarettes. And it shows. It doesn’t deliver the production finesse of 2018’s ‘Transangelic Exodus’, but that’s kind of the point.
Tool - Fear Inoculum (Album Review)
Fri 06 Sep 2019
Photo: Travis Shinn If you’ve waited a long time for something, you might as well spend a long time with it once it finally arrives, right? Tool’s return, after a 13 year absence that amounted to torture for their committed following, is a slow moving, dense work defined by its patient approach. Its steadfast insistence on hitting its marks in its own time, and skipping zero pages in the band’s playbook, will delight diehards.
The Futureheads - Powers (Album Review)
Mon 02 Sep 2019
‘Powers’ is the Futureheads’ sixth studio album and the first since the band went on hiatus following the lukewarm reception to their excellent a capella offering ‘Rant!’ in 2013. It is a return to the thrashy post punk sound that characterised their early success, and while familiar problems arise with several songs, it is a record of intricate and innovative arrangements that should place them firmly back on the European festival circuit next year.
< Prev   Next >