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Javelin marks Stevens’ first solo album of songs since 2020’s The Ascension, and his first in full singer-songwriter mode since 2015’s Carrie & Lowell, bridging all these approaches like never before. Whether listened to individually or as an album, these 10 songs become something much bigger, the entire experience of Stevens’ 25-year career brought to bear in four-minute bursts of choral, orchestral, and electric wonder.
Javelin pairs musical sweep with emotional breadth. At times, it has the feel of a big team album production — but it is decidedly not: almost every sound here is the result of Stevens at home, building by himself what sometimes feels like a testament to ‘70s Los Angeles studio opulence. The contributions come from a close circle of friends – adrienne maree brown, Hannah Cohen, Pauline Delassus, Megan Lui and Nedelle Torrisi – who provide harmonies on many songs, and Bryce Dessner, who plays acoustic and electric guitar on “Shit Talk.” Of course, Neil Young wrote the tender and mystic album closer, “There’s A World.”
Where The Ascension, lauded by The New York Times as “a cry of despair and prayer for redemption,” used ornate but urgent electronics to square up to its moment, Javelin begins like a self-portrait, detailed yet plain. This is Stevens at his most intimate, calling back to Seven Swans or Carrie & Lowell and then calling you close to share in its internal reckoning.
“So You Are Tired” begins with a gently introduced piano before intricate layers of guitar and percussion build, creating a lush, melancholic atmosphere. “So you are tired of us // So rest your head,” Stevens sings in his signature disarming voice, as if the very scenes of hurt and hope it is about to share have only galvanized it through the decades.
Javelin is accompanied by a 48-page book of art and essays all created by Stevens, including a series of meticulous collages, cut-up catalog fantasies, puff-paint word clouds, and iterative color fields. The 10 short essays — alternatively funny, tragic, poignant, obtuse, and specific — offer little glimpses into loves and losses that have shaped him, and, in turn, these songs.
1. Goodnight Evergreen
2. A Running Start
3. Will Anybody Ever Love Me?
4. Everything That Rises
5. Genuflecting Ghost
6. My Red Little Fox
7. So You Are Tired
8. Javelin (To Have And To Hold)
10. There’s A World