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Review: “Javelin” by Sufjan Stevens explores grief and loss

Javelin%2C+the+tenth+studio+album+by+Sufjan+Stevens%2C+was+released+on+Oct.+6.
Courtesy of Spotify
“Javelin,” the tenth studio album by Sufjan Stevens, was released on Oct. 6.

Sufjan Stevens battles profound grief and loneliness in his 10th studio album, “Javelin.”

In April of 2023, Sufjan Stevens’ partner Evans Richardson passed away. In the wake of Richardson’s passing, Stevens released his 10th studio album, “Javelin.”

The first track, “Goodbye Evergreen,” starts with a soft piano track accompanied by equally soft vocals from Stevens. This hypnotic combination quickly transitions to a flurry of synths and distorted harmonies similar to the psychedelic sounds of folk artist Bon Iver. Over these synths is Stevens’ repeating the phrase “Goodbye Evergreen / Goodbye / You know I Love You.” The simplicity of these lyrics is a step away from Stevens’ normal style of lyric writing but works when dealing with such strong themes.

“Goodbye Evergreen” is followed by my personal favorite track, “A Running Start.” This is the first track that features Stevens’ iconic fingerpicking, and it is the easiest track to listen to. This tack’s composition creates a light floating feeling that sucks you in. In the past, Stevens has shown that he can masterfully do a love song, and he continues to bolster his track record with this song.

“Will Anybody Ever Love Me?” is the name of the third track on “Javelin,” and it is a complete turnaround from the previous track in. Like the first track, the chorus is simple and to the point. The instrumental on this song is the star of the track. The hypnotic nature of the instruments pair well with the repetition of the lyrics. “Will Anybody Ever Love Me,” like many of his songs, keeps you glued to your seat.

The middle of “Javelin”, “Genuflecting Ghost,” “My Red Little Fox” and “So You Are Tired” mark a change in tone in the album. Lyrically, Stevens is vulnerable and open about his grief and how he deals with it in these three songs. Instrumentally, these tracks are lacking in diversity. Stevens is known as a  beautiful composer, but sometimes the hypnotic trans is broken, and the tracks become boring. It’s a good formula to follow, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen from Stevens before.

“Shit Talk” is the climax to “Javelin.” In this track, which is the longest on the album, Stevens takes a journey with grief and laments over his lost lover. Steven metaphorically buries his lover and tries to move on. During the track, haunting bells, chimes and a choir back up Stevens’ heartfelt vocal performance. This switches to a quiet acoustic section where Stevens’ delivery is at its most defeated. He repeats the phrase “I don’t want to fight at all” during this section, and the song swells to one of the most exciting 30 seconds on the album. After the climax, the last two minutes are filled with a beautiful instrumental that is bittersweet.

“There’s A World” is the outro track on “Javelin”, and it is perfectly placed in the album. Following the climactic “Shit Talk”, this track offers a much-needed calm. The lyrics and instrumental give a feeling that everything is going to be alright, and it leaves the listener with a sense of hope.

“Javelin” is an excellent exploration of grief and the loss of a loved one. Stevens puts everything he has into this album, and it shows.

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