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Sufjan Stevens|Javelin

Javelin

Sufjan Stevens

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The tenth studio album from Sufjan Stevens is conceptually looser than 2015's acclaimed Carrie and Lowell, about his complicated relationship with his mother, an addict who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and the stepfather who brought both levity and depth to Stevens' life. That said, Javelin is more like a greatest-hits of the topics that have always pervaded his music: love and loss and what if; faith and higher power. Modest (but not simple) guitar, an Up-with-People style choir and soft but deeply booming drums create a cocoon-like atmosphere on "Everything That Rises"—a safe space for Stevens to implore "Jesus lift me up to a higher plane ... before I go insane." Folky "A Running Start" captures that weird, suspended-in-amber moment before a first kiss, with Sufjan singing, "I cross my arms to shield my heart." "Will anybody ever love me?/ For good reasons/ Without grievance, not for sport?" he questions on the lovely "Will Anybody Ever Love Me," its stacks of vocal layers almost disorienting. Piano-driven "So You Are Tired" ("So you are tired of us ... So you are tired of even my kiss ... So you are dreaming of after … I was the man still in love with you/ When I already knew it was done") re-creates the helpless feeling of someone falling out of love with you. But Stevens is aware of his own power, too, on "Javelin (To Have And To Hold)," a metaphor symphony of near-misses and regrets. "Searching through the snow/ For the javelin I had not meant to throw right at you," he sings as backing vocals blow behind him like a chilled wind. (Adrienne Maree Brown, Hannah Cohen, Pauline Delassus, Megan Lui and Nedelle Torrisi lend harmonies to the songs.) Musically, Javelin is not so far from Carrie and Lowell's quiet beauty; "My Red Little Fox" manages to bottle the sort of Elliott Smith melancholy Stevens has used in past songs like "Should Have Known Better." But this time around, his emotions cannot be contained in one space. So many of the hushed, even delicate moments here bloom into something much bigger—the big burst on  "Goodbye Evergreen" could fit either a marching band or the Flaming Lips. And "Shit Talk" stretches for a luxuriant eight-and-a-half minutes as Stevens seeks security and comfort while accompanied by The National's Bryce Dessner on clear, bright guitar. "Hold me closely/ Hold me tightly/ Lest I fall," the verses start off like a prayer, before Stevens' tone twists into anguish.The song grows to pandemonium—feminine and masculine voices separating and taking sides but ultimately yearning for the same thing—before fading into a lengthy instrumental interlude: the inhale and exhale of life. It all ends with a stripped-down cover of Neil Young's "There's a World"; freed of the original's London Symphony Orchestra grandeur, the song appropriately becomes more vulnerable, its belly exposed. © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz

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Javelin

Sufjan Stevens

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1
Goodbye Evergreen
00:03:35

Sufjan Stevens, Lyricist, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer - SUFJAN STEVENS MUSIC, MusicPublisher

2023 Asthmatic Kitty Records 2023 Asthmatic Kitty Records

2
A Running Start
00:04:21

Sufjan Stevens, Lyricist, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer - SUFJAN STEVENS MUSIC, MusicPublisher

2023 Asthmatic Kitty Records 2023 Asthmatic Kitty Records

3
Will Anybody Ever Love Me?
00:04:09

Sufjan Stevens, Lyricist, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer - SUFJAN STEVENS MUSIC, MusicPublisher

2023 Asthmatic Kitty Records 2023 Asthmatic Kitty Records

4
Everything That Rises
00:04:59

Sufjan Stevens, Lyricist, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer - SUFJAN STEVENS MUSIC, MusicPublisher

2023 Asthmatic Kitty Records 2023 Asthmatic Kitty Records

5
Genuflecting Ghost
00:03:32

Sufjan Stevens, Lyricist, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer - SUFJAN STEVENS MUSIC, MusicPublisher

2023 Asthmatic Kitty Records 2023 Asthmatic Kitty Records

6
My Red Little Fox
00:03:42

Sufjan Stevens, Lyricist, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer - SUFJAN STEVENS MUSIC, MusicPublisher

2023 Asthmatic Kitty Records 2023 Asthmatic Kitty Records

7
So You Are Tired
00:04:49

Sufjan Stevens, Lyricist, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer - SUFJAN STEVENS MUSIC, MusicPublisher

2023 Asthmatic Kitty Records 2023 Asthmatic Kitty Records

8
Javelin (To Have And To Hold)
00:01:52

Sufjan Stevens, Lyricist, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer - SUFJAN STEVENS MUSIC, MusicPublisher

2023 Asthmatic Kitty Records 2023 Asthmatic Kitty Records

9
Shit Talk Explicit
00:08:31

Sufjan Stevens, Lyricist, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer - Bryce Dessner, AssociatedPerformer - SUFJAN STEVENS MUSIC, MusicPublisher

2023 Asthmatic Kitty Records 2023 Asthmatic Kitty Records

10
There's A World
00:02:29

Sufjan Stevens, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer - Silver Fiddle Music, MusicPublisher

2023 Asthmatic Kitty Records 2023 Asthmatic Kitty Records

Album review

The tenth studio album from Sufjan Stevens is conceptually looser than 2015's acclaimed Carrie and Lowell, about his complicated relationship with his mother, an addict who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and the stepfather who brought both levity and depth to Stevens' life. That said, Javelin is more like a greatest-hits of the topics that have always pervaded his music: love and loss and what if; faith and higher power. Modest (but not simple) guitar, an Up-with-People style choir and soft but deeply booming drums create a cocoon-like atmosphere on "Everything That Rises"—a safe space for Stevens to implore "Jesus lift me up to a higher plane ... before I go insane." Folky "A Running Start" captures that weird, suspended-in-amber moment before a first kiss, with Sufjan singing, "I cross my arms to shield my heart." "Will anybody ever love me?/ For good reasons/ Without grievance, not for sport?" he questions on the lovely "Will Anybody Ever Love Me," its stacks of vocal layers almost disorienting. Piano-driven "So You Are Tired" ("So you are tired of us ... So you are tired of even my kiss ... So you are dreaming of after … I was the man still in love with you/ When I already knew it was done") re-creates the helpless feeling of someone falling out of love with you. But Stevens is aware of his own power, too, on "Javelin (To Have And To Hold)," a metaphor symphony of near-misses and regrets. "Searching through the snow/ For the javelin I had not meant to throw right at you," he sings as backing vocals blow behind him like a chilled wind. (Adrienne Maree Brown, Hannah Cohen, Pauline Delassus, Megan Lui and Nedelle Torrisi lend harmonies to the songs.) Musically, Javelin is not so far from Carrie and Lowell's quiet beauty; "My Red Little Fox" manages to bottle the sort of Elliott Smith melancholy Stevens has used in past songs like "Should Have Known Better." But this time around, his emotions cannot be contained in one space. So many of the hushed, even delicate moments here bloom into something much bigger—the big burst on  "Goodbye Evergreen" could fit either a marching band or the Flaming Lips. And "Shit Talk" stretches for a luxuriant eight-and-a-half minutes as Stevens seeks security and comfort while accompanied by The National's Bryce Dessner on clear, bright guitar. "Hold me closely/ Hold me tightly/ Lest I fall," the verses start off like a prayer, before Stevens' tone twists into anguish.The song grows to pandemonium—feminine and masculine voices separating and taking sides but ultimately yearning for the same thing—before fading into a lengthy instrumental interlude: the inhale and exhale of life. It all ends with a stripped-down cover of Neil Young's "There's a World"; freed of the original's London Symphony Orchestra grandeur, the song appropriately becomes more vulnerable, its belly exposed. © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz

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