Sufjan Stevens: The Greatest Gift review – upbeat return to whimsical ways

(Asthmatic Kitty)

Sufjan Stevens’ 2015 album Carrie & Lowell, a reflection on the death of his mother, was one of that year’s best, as the Michigan musician returned to the delicate, poignant folk that made his name. This companion piece features four songs left off the record, along with demos and remixes. The grandest of the offcuts, Wallowa Lake Monster, suffers in comparison with the far superior Should Have Known Better, whose melody it briefly shares, but The Hidden River of My Life is a gem – too uptempo and jaunty for Carrie & Lowell, its fingerpicking decorates lyrics charged with a happy curiosity.

The demos are unnecessary, as is the echo and heft Helado Negro adds to two remixes, but there’s a pleasant Postal Service-style whimsy to others – recent collaborator James McAlister, AKA 900X, turns the “we’re all going to die” refrain of Fourth of July into a weirdly uplifting techno-pop affirmation.


Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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