published: 13 /
Uncompromising but compelling fourth album from New York-based singer-songwriter, Sharon Van Etten
Following up the tremendous 'Tramp' was never going to be easy. Sharon Van Etten hit the ground running with her 2009 debut 'Because I Was In Love', but her third record in 2012 was undoubtedly her breakthrough. Her confidence as a songwriter reached a new level, and her sound expanded from the acoustic-guitar-and-voice focused songs of her first two records to a full band sound, aided by the National’s Aaron Dessner on production duties.
On her new album, Van Etten continues her growth as a songwriter and band-leader, while moving away from the more out-and-out rock moments of 'Tramp'. Much of the songwriting on 'Are We There' seems to have been done on piano, which automatically gives the record a different flavour, but Sharon Van Etten's uncompromising lyrics are a constant. She has spoken about how she uses songwriting as a form of therapy, and this new collection of songs are as raw and personal as ever. 'Your Love is Killing Me' – a standout among an album full of standouts – describes the turmoil one can go through when you are irresistibly drawn to someone you know will only hurt you. “Break my legs so I can’t walk to you/Cut my tongue so I can’t talk to you,” she sings. “You like it when I let you walk over me”.
'On Our Love', the title’s repetition in the chorus can lead you to mistake it for a more positive, sweet track, but there’s something slightly off about the harmonised vocal, enough to make you listen more closely and realize the song might not be quite as sweet as it seems.
I’ve read other reviews saying that 'Are We There' is too heavy, had too much heartbreak to listen to the whole thing in one sitting. I have to say I disagree – in fact, I’ve been listening to it on a loop for the last week. The songs are sad and they deal with tough subjects, but they are undoubtedly beautiful at the same time. The first time I heard the album’s penultimate track, he vocal and piano ballad 'I Know', I got goosebumps. Van Etten’s voice can go from impressively powerful to heartbreakingly delicate within a single track, and the sound she has built up around her compliments it perfectly.
Some people might feel disappointed at the move away from the rock elements of 'Tramp', but more likely fans will embrace this as another brilliant record from an artist who has proved herself to be consistently brilliant.
Afraid of Nothing
Your Love is Killing Me
I Love You But I'm Lost
You Know Me Well
Nothing Will Change
Every Time the Sun Comes Up