- 05 Oct 23
Sufjan returns to full singer-songwriter mode
A man noodles in his home studio somewhere deep in the Catskills in Upstate New York, creating an album to which his friends will later contribute. A customary expectation would be a lo-fi record, but this is no ordinary man – this is Sufjan Stevens. And so, the resultant record, Javelin, is more of a testament to ‘70s Los Angeles studio opulence.
In the vein of his last record The Ascension, Sufjan builds the songs from the ground up. Opener ‘Goodbye Evergreen’ starts with just his hushed vocal and gentle piano, before a chorus of harmonies, a wash of synths and a murder of industrial drums busily arrive. ‘A Running Start’ sees the birth of a lightly strummed guitar demo maturing into a full-blooded, woodwinded, bell-chiming pastoral beauty.
Listening to ‘Will Anybody Ever Love Me?’, you imagine the song being created on a chilly morning with the sun slowly rising, the world coming alive as the seconds tick by. Similarly, you picture the vixen from ‘My Red Little Fox’ wander from the adjoining garden into the wild. The enchantment gets repeated across the record.
The apogee is the eight-minute ‘Shit Talk’, on which The National guitarist Bryce Dessner deftly leaves his fingerprints. The closer is a cover of Neil Young’s ‘There’s A World’. It hints at Sufjan’s vision for this record – an artist treading delicately-but-valiantly through feral orchestrations, wild symphonies and untamed ensembles.