Javelin is the tenth studio album from Sufjan Stevens, an artist who has pushed the boundaries of creativity throughout each and every release. If you have followed his journey, you will already have a ridiculous amount of love and respect for this wonderful artist. You may not have liked everything you have heard from Sufjan and that is ok. There have been so many twists and turns and no two albums have been the same. It is ok to not love everything he has created, and you will no doubt have your favourites. My favourite Sufjan Stevens album has been Carrie & Lowell released in 2015 which is a masterpiece of an album which saw Sufjan dealing with the loss of his mum and his relationship with his stepdad, whilst trying to make sense of the world around him. Javelin is probably more aligned to Carrie & Lowell than anything Sufjan has released before or since so it is no wonder that I am already head over heels in love with this album.
Javelin opens with Goodbye Evergreen, a song that is a perfect example of what you get when you challenge yourself when it comes to song writing and creativity. What you hear within these opening four minutes will blow your mind. It is as though you are hearing the full evolution of the song, from the hushed vulnerable opening lyric of “Goodbye Evergreen you know I love you / But everything heaven sent must burn out in the end” which will make you stop dead in your tracks, through to the vocal harmonies, and the cacophony of sounds that will soon fill your ears. This is just truly remarkable and will leave you in awe at the genius that is Sufjan Stevens, but you knew that already right?
A Running Start is next with some gentle acoustic melodies and vocals that instantly make you feel at peace with the world. We all need a comfort blanket at times, and there are so many moments throughout Javelin where it feels like we are being wrapped up in the biggest and most comfortable blanket we have ever known. The climax to A Running Start will leave you feeling happy from the inside out.
As he showed with Carrie & Lowell, Sufjan Stevens has never been one to shy away from vulnerability and pouring his heart out. That vulnerability is back with a bang in Will Anybody Ever Love Me. The voice and the lyrics are full of fragility and if you are not moved by Sufjan’s longing for somebody to love him then you must have a heart of stone “Cos I really want to know / Will anybody ever love me / For good reasons / Without grievance / Not for sport”.
Everything That Rises, sees the guitar and vocals weave around each other with so much grace and honesty. The song builds with harmonies, melodies and a kaleidoscope of sounds that holds your attention with a very firm grip. Genuflecting Ghost will send shivers all over your body with the opening finger picking guitar melodies and haunting vocals. As with Goodbye Evergreen, the start Genuflecting Ghost is another example of how, when an artist has full control of their song writing, masterpieces can be created. The different directions this song takes, building up to the ending that makes you feel like anything is possible is something the entire world needs to hear.
Red Fox continues with some of the most gentle and beautiful melodies you are likely to hear all year. Songs make us feel glad to be alive, listening to these melodies and harmonies is a blessing and something we all need to feel grateful for. So You Are Tired has delicate, heartbreaking piano and guitar led melodies together with lyrics that continue with the honesty and vulnerability that dominates this already classic album “So you are tired of me / So rest your head / Turning back all that we had in our life / Well let me turn to death”.
Javelin (To Have And To Hold) is a perfectly crafted two minute song, which appears to see Sufjan full of regret and remorse “Searching through the snow / For the Javelin I had not meant to throw right at you”. Shit Talk follows with eight minutes of lyrics delivered with belief, honesty and meaning together with musical sounds that clash and combine in a way that will fill your world with so much colour, hope and optimism. You may think eight minutes is too long for a song and especially in todays world where people’s attention spans are diminishing, but honestly when it comes to the creative mind of Sufjan Stevens eight minutes is not too long. Forget everything you are doing and devote your time to every sound you hear in this song and the album as a whole and I promise you will feel more fulfilled for doing so.
The album ends with a cover of Neil Young’s There’s A World and given all the troubles in the world over the last few years it is a timely reminder to be unique, be yourself, and live your life the way you want to “There’s a world you’re living in / No one else has your part”. If that’s not the best piece of advice to end this album on then I don’t know what is. Sufjan Stevens, thank you for being unique, thanks for being you, sharing your vulnerability with us, making us believe in who we are and reminding us to just be ourselves.
Javelin is released on 6th October on Asthmatic Kitty Records.