Sufjan Stevens announced a couple weeks ago that he’s going to put the final button on the Carrie & Lowell era with the release of The Greatest Gift, a mixtape featuring remixes, demo versions, and unreleased tracks from the recording of Carrie & Lowell. He previously shared the seven-minute “Wallowa Lake Monster” when he announced the compilation, and now he’s back with another advance track from the collection. This time, it’s an acoustic “iPhone Demo” of Carrie & Lowell track “John My Beloved.”
Whereas the version that made it onto the album features some reverb-drenched piano, ethereal backing vocals, and a light percussive synth, the song is ultimately about subtlety, which lends itself nicely to an acoustic rendition. If anything, the iPhone demo is more immediate, since the acoustic guitar more closely matches the volume of the vocal and is more an equal sonic partner than is the intentionally subdued instrumentation of the Carrie & Lowell version.
This collection caps off a super busy 2017 for Stevens: He released the live album and concert film Carrie & Lowell Live in April, then June brought Planetarium, a collaborative album with James McAlister, Nico Muhly, and The National’s Bryce Dessner.
The Greatest Gift is out on November 24 via Asthmatic Kitty. Listen to “John My Beloved (iPhone Demo)” above, and revisit the original version of the song below.