Are We There?
Reviewed by: Brian Roser
Sharon Van Etten has a beautiful voice and is quite accomplished with the instruments she plays. For me, the problem with her music is in the melody. When listening to this album, I am reminded of singing hymns in church on Easter Sunday. I don’t go every week, so I don’t know them by heart, but there is an organ to keep you on track. You can see the music on the page, and you know the ups and downs are coming, they’re just never quite where you think they are. That’s what I felt when listening to her songs. The melodies seem staggeringly uneven. She embellishes where I don’t expect it and holds the note when I think a more clipped one is coming. It’s like reading a poem with beautiful imagery, but it doesn’t quite rhyme.
This is the fourth album for the singer-songwriter from Brooklyn. She will also be on tour this summer, including gigs on both coasts of the USA and both shores of the North Sea. She spent her life around music, from clarinet to choir. I was impressed with her story. She lived in Tennessee with an abusive boyfriend who told her she was no good, until she left everything to pursue her dream.
The songs of this album are ones of forlorn and imperfect love. The lyrics are poetic, for example in “Your Love Is Killing Me”, she sings: Burn my skin, so I can’t feel you / Stab my eyes so I can’t see. Morbid to be sure, but you can’t deny that they are also quite vivid. Maybe the reason I didn’t enjoy this album more is that she’s too good. Shakespeare is a master of the English language, but many people just don’t get him. The answer to the albums question ‘are we there?’ is: musically, I think you went past us.