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The Sunflower

REVIEW: Sufjan Stevens releases heartwarming album with heart-wrenching backstory

Photo+courtesy+of+Asthmatic+Kitty+Records
Photo courtesy of Asthmatic Kitty Records

Accompanied by a heart-wrenching Instagram post, Sufjan Stevens released a 10-track album, “Javelin,” on Oct. 6. “Javelin,” his 13th studio album and 10th solo studio project, is his first solo album release since 2020’s “The Ascension.” I’ve always been a really casual Stevens listener, but if all of his albums are as good as “Javelin,” then I’m missing out. 

On Instagram, Stevens posted a tribute to his late partner Evans Richardson, dedicating the album to him.

“This album is dedicated to the light of my life, my beloved partner and best friend Evans Richardson, who passed away in April,” Stevens said on the day of the album’s release. “He was an absolute gem of a person, full of life, love, laughter, curiosity, integrity, and joy. He was one of those rare and beautiful ones you find only once in a lifetime—precious, impeccable, and absolutely exceptional in every way.”

The album starts with “Goodbye Evergreen,” a slow and soothing melody that turns choppy and erratic – in the best way possible. “Goodbye Evergreen” features some Sufjan-like choir vocals in the background. The song feels highly polished with simplistic yet powerful lyrics that, to me, represent saying goodbye to someone that you thought you’d never have to say goodbye to. 

“Live every day as if it is your last, with fullness and grace, with reverence and love, with gratitude and joy,” Stevens said on Instagram. I can see these themes in “Goodbye Evergreen.”

Beginning on Sept. 20, Stevens began to document his health struggles on Instagram – he had been diagnosed with a serious auto-immune disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and has been undergoing treatment for it. The singer had been in rehab since Sept. 8 and is undergoing the process of learning how to walk again. With this in mind, “Javelin” is even more heartfelt and devastating.

“A Running Start” is probably my favorite from the album (subject to change). It feels like a warm hug from a childhood friend that you’re about to fall in love with. The gentle picking of the guitar accompanied by a slow and purposeful orchestral backing near the end round out the song wonderfully. 

“So You Are Tired” immediately stuck out to me because of its resemblance to E. E. Cummings’s poem, “You Are Tired (I Think).” The poem and the song carry a similar emotional weight and feel. “So You Are Tired” has a lot of the sweet romanticism that I like in other Sufjan Stevens songs. The choral background makes it enchanting and just warms your heart.

Throughout the album, his trembling and almost weak vocals paired with thematic backings and experimental sound effects really round out each and every track. Every song is distinctly different while also being very cohesive and balanced, not feeling out of place at all. I’m willing to bet that my favorite song from this album will change upon further listens. “Javelin” is just that kind of album. It’s a love letter to love, growth, pain and change. 

“You can do it. I can do it. We all can do it,” Stevens said on a post celebrating National Rehabilitation Awareness Week. “Let’s heal and move and improve together. Pray for peace and joy and strength.”

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About the Contributor
Sascha Harvey, Opinion Editor
Sascha Harvey is the opinon editor for The Sunflower. A junior majoring in graphic design, this is Harvey's third year on staff and second year as a section editor. He is originally from Arkansas but has no accent to speak of (unless you listen really hard). The graphic design major enjoys covering feature stories and local news. Harvey uses he/him pronouns.

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