Sufjan Stevens is a master of reinvention. With each new release, there is no telling what might come next. And Javelin sees him evoking some of the best of his back catalogue on an album that is nothing short of fantastical.
The tracks on Javelin revel in a soft, delicate realm, with the tender Sufjan Stevens vocals, which have been sorely missed in recent releases, at the forefront of the compositions. That gossamer thread ties the album together as each track rises into something more stirring each time.
‘A Running Start’ is impishly romantic, smilingly shy and whimsical in its evocation of cool early morning breezes, glistening lakes and the exhilaration of a first kiss. The raw yearning and chasm at the core of ‘Will Anybody Ever Love Me?’ is a jolting blow, but one that is softened by the kaleidoscopic guitars on the track.
On Javelin, Sufjan Stevens displays some of the strongest songwriting of his ten-album-strong discography. It navigates a series of emotions that are human at their core, deeply affecting and narrated so gorgeously it’s startling. In returning to a more poetic state, Sufjan Stevens shines ever brighter.
Amongst the guilt and loss, the love and fire, there is a labyrinth of complex instrumentals to be navigated. Turns are taken within each track, layers added until what begins as a muted, stripped-back track becomes as otherworldly and uncontainable as the feelings they dwell on.
‘Shit Talk’ is a particular highlight, a coil wound too tightly that unravels at a crucial moment. It’s an eight-minute blow – cutting deep in a despair echoed by a choir and made all the more consuming by the tugging strings that see the track to its close.
Remnants of the different directions Sufjan Stevens has traversed over the years make themselves heard; from the pulsing electronics on The Ascension to the sheer, soul-shaking heartache of Carrie & Lowell. At this crossroads of what has come before, Sufjan Stevens lands on a route that amplifies the strongest elements of his artistry.
Though deeply intimate by nature, Javelin acts as a mirror: above all else, there is a resounding humanity at its core. The experiences and emotions explored are not unique – all have fallen into the clutches of them at some point, and Sufjan Stevens is no exception. In embracing that, he steps to new heights in his capabilities.