Album Review Sharon Van Etten - epic

It possesses an uplifting desire amongst the sorrow.

Sharon Van Etten recently told how she wept after receiving a letter from a therapist explaining how he used her music to aid the recovery of some of his patients. To her fans, this healing power her voice naturally exhibits will come as no surprise given the sheer intensity of her songs. But, for Van Etten it appears the message acted as a realisation of how remedial she can be when documenting relationship woe.

As a consequence, ‘epic’ exudes a confidence which was barely visible on her fragile debut ‘Because I Was In Love’. With backing band now in tow, it would be easy for Van Etten to become one of the collective, yet the more varied arrangements only serve to bring her heartfelt melodies further to the fore.

Carefully augmented instrumental ensures a directness and immediacy which was only evident in a handful of songs on ‘Because I Was In Love’. Lost is none of the intimacy and intrusiveness that originally separated Van Etten from a clustered pack of singer-songwriters clutching only an acoustic guitar. With it also comes a new-found lyrical projection and clarity which could find ‘epic’ touching base with a wave of new listeners who endeavoured not to seek out the 2009 debut at the first offering, possibly for reasons mentioned earlier.

Such precision is apparent in the sole acoustic-led opener ‘A Crime’. “Never let myself love like that again” rings out repeatedly, almost as if the repetition guarantees she will be able to manipulate her emotions to how she wishes in the future. Such control can prove difficult in reality, as Van Etten would I’m sure testify.

This new collection of songs not only boast lyrics to break hearts made from the toughest of stone but also a control over pitch that will make eyes roll inwards with delight. It is these contrasts in emotions that give the listener hope that a resolution is always a possibility. ‘Peace Signs’ is strung out recurrently throughout the three minutes, which in itself shows a further shift away from her wistful debut into something more striking.

‘Save Yourself’ shows the value of incorporating some musically-savvy friends into an already fascinating formula as country-tinged guitar chimes echo around some steady yet sturdy beats. What’s more, however, is having only recently started playing the electric guitar it is more than encouraging to see it deployed with such poise and to such worthwhile effect. At no point does it distract distastefully from Van Etten’s merciful melancholy.

On ‘One Day’ Van Etten somewhat embraces her insecurities as she poses “you don’t leave me now / do you love me back?” before assuring herself “one day I’ll be fine with that”. It is in such lyrics you begin to see why a therapist might look to Van Etten for inspiration. She not only acknowledges her demons but begins to construct reasoning to these damaging thoughts.

‘Love More’ will leave you questioning how such a sincere and tender soul could have encountered such emotional suffering. But, rather than leaving you disillusioned in the aspiration for life-long, two-way affection, it possesses an uplifting desire amongst the sorrow to continue striving for that elusive feeling of something everlasting.

 

Records & Merch

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