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Album Review: Sufjan Stevens - The Greatest Gift

24 November 2017 | 4:12 pm | Lewis Isaacs

"Revisits the original material a little too closely."

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It's been two years since Sufjan Stevens released his stripped-back, deeply personal and widely acclaimed seventh album Carrie & Lowell.

In the interlude, the Detroit-born artist has released a companion live album, a recording of Planetarium (his solar system-themed musical project featuring The National's Bryce Dessner), and contributed heavily to the Call Me By Your Name film soundtrack.

Yet despite time moving on since Carrie & Lowell was released, it seems Stevens hasn't. With mixtape The Greatest Gift, he revisits the original material a little too closely.

Wallowa Lake Monster is an outtake strong enough to fit seamlessly into Carrie & Lowell's soundscape and, save for three other new tunes, the remainder of the mixtape is previous songs reimagined or demos. The demos themselves were recorded by iPhone and speak more for the technology than the different takes on the songs themselves.

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Drawn To The Blood appears twice, once as a remix and another fingerpicked guitar version. One-off single Exploding Whale gets another reimagining, this time through Doveman's remix.

While it comes as a delight in moments to revisit one of Stevens' best albums, the necessity of such a release is questionable.