Sufjan Steven’s latest offering 'The Greatest Gift' comes on the back of 2015’s 'Carrie & Lowell', a poignant reflection on the death of Stevens’ mother.
'The Greatest Gift' is a series of remixes, demos, and out-takes, as well as four complete songs left off the original release.
There are still traces of a mournful Stevens although that dissipates amid the jaunty notes of 'The Hidden River Of My Life'.
Even having two versions of the same song - 'Drawn To The Blood' - doesn’t feel like overkill. Steven’s own re-working of it, and the Fingerpicking remix, make for extraordinary listening in their own way.
It is in this moment, while listening to the 'The Greatest Gift', the album becomes a twofold pleasure to listen to: The remixes stand out in their own right, while managing to evoke all the best bits from 'Carrie & Lowell'.
Too often remix albums - or alternate versions, in this case - are either overly experimental to the point of bastardising the tracks they are remixing, or lack inspiration and creativity, with the final end product a limp, insipid version of the original. Either way, they often leave a sour taste in the mouth.
Here however, there is balance finely struck, deeply enjoyable and more than memorable. It is a testament to all involved in making the album and a reminder of Stevens’ ongoing talents.
For Sufjan fans, despite not belonging exclusively to their hero, 'The Greatest Gift' is immensely enjoyable. For anyone not yet sold on the Michigan music-maker, well, you’re in for a treat.
Words: Milo Wasserman
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