Sufjan Stevens continues to prove why he is one of the best current songwriters. Very few artists capture sadness quite like Stevens. Although his latest album, Javelin, might not wreck you as emotionally as Carrie & Lowell, it is still incredibly devastating and full of heartbreaking tracks.
The record opens with “Goodbye Evergreen”, which has three distinct sections. It starts with a soft and beautiful piano ballad led by Sufjan Stevens’ warm and comforting voice. Near the one-minute mark, the song gets a bit industrial and becomes chaotic, harsh and frantic. Then, near the end, the track is reminiscent of Stevens’ 2005 album Illinois. It has a fun atmosphere, and the instrumentation feels very carnivalesque.
Of all the tracks, “Goodbye Evergreen” is probably the most experimental on the album, but Stevens has many exciting surprises. Other highlights include “Everything That Rises” and “My Red Little Fox”. The former has an ending like something Trent Reznor would have composed. Ambient synths clunk and clatter and have a bit of a dark and strange sound. The latter has an enchanting dream-like sound, making it feel like you are listening to a nursery rhyme.
The emotions and imagery that Stevens conveys through his words is truly breathtaking. In “Will Anybody Ever Love Me?” he simultaneously can soothe and depress listeners with his vulnerable and gloomy lyrics about yearning for love. “A Running Start” is incredibly vivid and demonstrates why Stevens is a master at storytelling.
The choir-like backing vocals are magnificent on this album. When the backing vocals are combined with Stevens’ vocals, it sounds so gorgeous and heavenly, especially on “Everything That Rises”.
“Shit Talk” is one of Stevens’ best tracks to date. Painful and melancholic lyrics, haunting and cinematic instrumentation, an epic conclusion, and a career-best vocal performance by Stevens make it one of the best songs of 2023. Plus, the lines: “I will always love you/But I cannot live with you” are two of the year’s most soul-crushing and cathartic lines.
Overall, Javelin is another masterpiece from Sufjan Stevens and one of the year’s best records.
SPILL ALBUM REVIEW: SUFJAN STEVENS – JAVELIN