Sharon Van Etten’s voice… honestly, it’s difficult to find the appropriate adjective and not come up short, because sometimes words are just not invented yet for such things. Her vocals remind one of a lazy Sunday afternoon: part mournful and part at-peace, and the whole time tangled up in the beautiful complexities of life experience. She is truly a folk artist, a woman with a guitar and stories to tell.
SVE’s second album, epic, is officially out. While her first album, Because I Was in Love, (appropriately titled, because she was), and its songs are her reflection on a tumultuous, unhealthy relationship, examining herself both internally and externally in those lyrics; epic is Sharon Van Etten, the slightly more grown-up version. Her songs remain confessional, as if she were summoning poets who defined that genre, and her hauntingly truthful account of love, life and all that stuff in between make for an honest peek inside the heart of this artist. You have to have been dragged through the gutter of heartache to be able to write the lyrics that SVE does so well, the ones that perfectly compliment those vocals of hers.
The album opens with, “A Crime,” a blistering, heart wrenching beginning: “To say the things I want to say to you would be a crime/To admit I’m still in love with you after all this time/I’d rather let you touch my arm until you die/Seduce with me with your charms until I’m drunk on them/Go home and drink in bed/And never let myself be in love like that again…Never let myself love like that again/Never let myself love like that again…To say the words I want to say to you would be a lie/By the time I get the courage, I am drunk and you are tired/Alone in this basement where I will write these songs/The things I’ll never say to you again and you know why/Never let myself love like that again/Never let myself love like that again…” Repeatedly, her voice calls out that line, and you can’t help but wonder if she’s trying to make a declaration, or convince herself that she’s made a pact with her heart and if she says it over and over again, she’ll stick to it.
Each song dives deeper and deeper into a spiral of dark beauty. Definitely the most soulful track on the album is “DsharpG” and it’s here that SVE seems to take responsibility for not only herself but for the rest of us who were/are too foolish, those of us who follow blindly at the command of love, only to discover, after the fact, that it really was all false.
The album closes with “Love More,” another reflective moment. She realizes she’s grown as both an artist and a woman, and for that, she’s capable of out-flying the restrictions set upon her by people and situations from her past: “Tied to my bed/I was younger then/I had nothing to spend but time on you/But it made me love it made me love it made me love more/It made me love it made me love it made me love more…” And yes, she again repeats her lyrics but this time there is no question, there is no trying to convince herself here; it is now fact.
Sharon Van Etten’s epic, is indeed just that. It’s a love letter to former lovers, the intimate relationships in her life who define her, and who without them, these lyrics and melodies probably would not exist in such a fragile and evoking manner. But mostly, it’s a love letter to herself. She’s clearly still examining these pieces of her past that now so exquisitely represent who she is, and just how she’s going to evolve.
It was Charles Bukowski who wrote, “Love is a dog from hell,” and it really is. But it’s a hell worth experiencing, and sometimes it takes an artist like Sharon Van Etten to remind us of this solemn, but beautiful truth.
By: Amanda Chatel
14 Sep: 529, Atlanta, GA
17 Sep: Duke, Durham, NC
18 Sep: Duke, Durham, NC
19 Sep: Duke, Durham, NC
08 Oct: Rock Shop, Brooklyn, NY (CD release)
09 Oct: Mercury Lounge, NYC (CD release)
01 Nov: World Café, Philly, PA
02 Nov: Royale, Boston, MA
03 Nov: The Monkeyhouse, Winooski, VT
04 Nov: Belmont, Montreal, Canada
05 Nov: Lee’s Palace, Toronto, Canada
06 Nov: Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL
07 Nov: Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis, MN
10 Nov: Neumos, Seattle, WA
11 Nov: Venue, Vancouver, Canada
12 Nov: Doug Fir, Portland, OR
13 Nov: Independent, San Francisco, CA
14 Nov: Music Box, Los Angeles, CA
16 Nov: Rhythm Room, Phoenix, AZ
18 Nov: Mohawk, Austin, TX
19 Nov: Fitzgerald’s, Houston, TX
20 Nov: Spanish Moon, Baton Rouge, LA
22 Nov: Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro, NC
“For You,” from 2009′s Because I Was in Love: