SHARON VAN ETTEN
Are We There
Sharon Van Etten seems to be in a great place in her career. After her amazing 2012 album Tramp, which received loads of praise and put her music into many new fans ears, she returns with a new album “Are We There,” that was written and produced by her, making it possibly the most Sharony album yet. There are many themes that affect this Sharonness, but I think the main theme that has carried through Van Etten’s four LPs is melancholy. This element is very purposeful, and comes from Sharon’s frequent motive for writing music, healing. A funny and fun loving person in real life, this melancholy is somewhat reserved for her music. Although sadness clouds over most of the album, there are instances of humor that can shine through, such as a lyric in the song Every Time the Sun Comes Up, where she sings “I washed your dishes, but I s*** in your bathroom,” a humorous line that shows off a bit of her stream-of-conscious writing style.
Musically, there is progression on many fronts on this album. Acting as her own producer allowed Sharon to craft an album that is 100% her. As I’m sure she has grown in the past two years since the release of “Tramp,” aspects of the band’s sound have changed too. We hear new instrumentation on this album, such as the frequent use of organ that drones throughout several songs, such as Taking Chances, Your Love is Killing Me, and Break Me. The presence of this organ allows Sharon to construct a sound that wasn’t always possible on her earlier albums. It adds a bit of depth to the familiar SVE sound of guitar and harmonies. It thickens the sound, and gives her voice another sound to latch onto. These differences become clearer when listening to Sharon’s older work, such as the songs she performed solo at a Radio K in-studio in 2010.
Your Love is Killing Me is a great example of a song that utilizes the qualities of this new instrumentation and typical melancholy. Containing perhaps some of the saddest lyrics I have ever heard, this song is able to embody the vocal harmonies that made me fall in love with Sharon years ago, while employing more polished production that shows off her beautiful compositions.
One of the most appealing aspects of Sharon Van Etten’s music is the honesty it holds. Sharon doesn’t try to mold her sound to match some concept developed for the album, it all comes from honesty and experience. In an interview with gigwise.com, she mentioned that when writing an album, “I don’t have a concept, it’s just a chapter in my life.” When listening to “Are We There,” we’re listening to a time period, a time period that consisted of touring for the album “Tramp,” a time period of losing love, a time period of choosing between love of music and love of a person. This emotion and honesty is something that rarely resonates so well in an album, but there is something about Sharon that makes it work so well.
Although writing from experiences, there is a very conscious element to Sharon’s music. In a rather hilarious interview with Fred Armisen, Sharon talks about being self-conscious about the great song Our Love, because it might sound too poppy. This consciousness is part of what makes this album and Sharon’s sound so unique. She crafts all of her experiences into this fantastic album that is sure to please all Sharon Van Etten fans.
Hear Sharon live at First Avenue on July 16th. Tears are not guaranteed, but likely, because she puts on an absolutely beautiful live show.
P.S. This blog is all about Sharon Van Etten and salad, and it is probably my favorite page on the entire Internet.