I know that nine chances out of ten I’m trying to keep this blog full of music by artists that probably aren’t getting too much attention around the internet, but I couldn’t help taking a day to talk about the new Sharon Van Etten LP.
Not exactly obscure by any stretch of the imagination, I think that it is pretty fair to say that the secret is out about Van Etten. Her renown grows with each release, and after 2012’s “Tramp” it seemed that she’s reached a new peak, but that only means that the stakes were that much higher for her next album.
I think that it was because of that expectation that I had a hard time coming around to listening to “Are We There” for as long as I did. I’ve had several opportunities to listen, as whomever is behind her marketing is doing a pretty great job. No matter where I turn to on the internet there are ads, on Tumblr, on Facebook; and then there are all the blogs that are talking about it. Not that I have read any reviews. I wanted to experience it on my own for the first time. I knew that I would get around to it eventually, but I was tentative. The same thing happens whenever of Montreal releases a new album. I’m such a huge fan that I get nervous that I’m not going to like their latest and I’m going to have to move on from them.
Anyway, it only took a few seconds to realize that “Are We There” was not going to be a disappointing listening experience. Her voice is as confident as ever, maybe even more so. Production-wise, “Are We There” covers similar ground to that of “Tramp” but a little bit of the polish is stripped away. Van Etten’s powerful, emotive, voice is front and center. With her distinctive voice, melodies and lyric material it’s clear that Sharon is constantly pushing herself, and the results on this album are quite striking. The hook that is sticking with me right now is the haunting chorus of “Taking Chances,” perfectly orchestrated to outline Sharon’s upper register, while the verse remains mainly concerned with her breathier alto.
Songs are expertly arranged, and I think that this is most evident on “Your Love Is Killing Me.” It’s on that track that we really hear something being built from the ground up. Beginning with an echoed and distant drum track, an organ eventually makes its entrance, followed soon thereafter by Van Etten’s voice, the guitar slips in almost unnoticed and then the chorus. The way that the entire verse is designed to really launch into that first chorus is pretty powerful, and creates enough tension to propel through to the end of the song. Sharon’s voice grows continually stronger throughout, and by the end one is left struck by how powerful it can be.
I’m sure you’ve probably been hearing a lot about this release already, but (unlike an Arcade Fire album) this one is worth whatever hype can be thrown at it. It’s out now from Jagjaguwar, and Sharon is currently on an extensive tour, just in time for the Summer festival season! If you recall, her last show before taking time away from touring to record this album was in (near) Portland at the Pickathon, and I posted a few tracks here if you are curious.
Pick up “Are We There” anywhere, and catch her on tour everywhere.
Fri. May 30 – Barcelona, ES @ Primavera Sound
Sun. June 1 – Koln, DE @ Studio 672
Mon. June 2 – Berlin, DE @ Privatclub
Tue. June 3 – Amsterdam, NL @ Bitterzoet
Thu. June 5 – London, UK @ KOKO
Wed. June 11 – Boston, MA @ Sinclair
Thu. June 12 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall at Williamsburg (Northside Festival)
Fri. June 13 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
Sat. June 14 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
Tue. June 17 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
Wed. June 18 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
Thu. June 19 – Millvale, PA @ Mr. Small’s
Fri. June 20 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom
Sat. June 21 – Nashville, TN @ Exit In
Tue. June 24 – Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
Wed. June 25 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
Sat. June 28 – Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theatre
Sun. June 29 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
Mon. June 30 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
Wed. July 2 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir
Thu. July 3 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir
Sat. July 5 – George, WA @ Sasquatch Festival
Sun. July 6 – Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theatre
Tue. July 8 – Calgary, AB @ Republik
Wed. July 9 – Edmonton, AB @ Starlite Room
Mon. July 14 – Fargo, ND @ Aquarium
Wed. July 16 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
Thu. July 17 – Madison, WI @ University of Wisconsin
Fri. July 18 – Chicago, IL @ Pitchfork Music Festival
Sat. July 19-Sun. July 20 – Louisville, KY @ Forecastle Festival
Thu. Aug. 7 – Sun. Aug. 9 – Goteborg, SE @ Way Out West
Sat. Aug. 9 – Olso, NO @ Øyafestivalen
Tue. Aug. 12 – Bezirk-Landstrasse, AU @ Arena Wien Open Air
Fri. Aug. 15 – Hasselt, BE @ Pukkelpop
Sat. Aug. 16 – Crickhowell, UK @ Glanusk Park – Green Man Festival