Sufjan Stevens - Javelin

Regular price $ 27.99

Lemonade Vinyl

It's hard to say where pop music would be if it weren't for love songs -– love has been most songwriters' favorite subject for centuries, but beyond the fact that almost everyone wants to be in love and is sad when they're not, there are only so many things to be said about the subject. Sufjan Stevens' 2023 album, Javelin, is that rarity, a collection of songs about love that feels like something you haven't heard before, both in its depth and complexity, and in the way it explores love in both its human and divine forms. Spiritual themes have often popped up in Stevens' songwriting since he enjoyed his breakthrough with 2003's Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lake State. On Javelin, he sings about the need for succor from the Lord with a quiet but fierce desire that mirrors the urgency with which he sings, "Will anybody ever love me?/For good reasons/Without grievance, not for sport," which appears to be a cry for affection from another human being. Stevens isn't singing about simple heartache on Javelin, he's speaking about the need for love that's as necessary to our existence as food and water, and the strong stage-whisper of his delivery makes his musings all the more powerful, as do the beautifully arranged and executed harmonies that add depth to the tracks. As he often does on his projects, Stevens played all the instruments himself on these ten songs (except for some additional guitar on "Shit Talk," performed by Bryce Dessner of the National), and listening to this music back to back with Greetings from Michigan shows how much Stevens has grown within his trademark style in two decades: His mix of folkie melodies and serialist structures is as distinct today as it was then, but he's learned how to use these tools with an agility that's dynamic and filled with unpretentious, naturalistic drama. The music dovetails with the lyrics so each amplifies the other, while the production is unobtrusive in its effects but superb in how it reinforces the emotional energy in the music. Javelin closes with a cover of Neil Young's "There's a World" and Stevens has adapted the song so successfully that it's difficult at first to tell he didn't write it, even as Young's words and ideas continue to shine through. Javelin is an album about the need to be loved, agape and philia, and Stevens shows that he can write about both without trivializing or minimizing the importance of either. That's a commendable achievement in any creative medium, and the fact that he's done so while creating some of the best music of his life makes this essential listening.

A1 Goodbye Evergreen
A2 A Running Start
A3 Will Anybody Ever Love Me?
A4 Everything That Rises
A5 Genuflecting Ghost
B1 My Red Little Fox
B2 So You Are Tired
B3 Javelin
B4 Shit Talk
B5 There's A World