Sharon Van Etten - Are We There (Jagjaguwar)
SHARON VAN Etten’s world is of dark, late night confessionals of heartbreak, unrequited love, failing relationships, relationships that should have worked, and yearning for better times that may never arrive.
The New Jersey woman is hardly the first singer-songwriter to explore such terrain, but there are few who sing about it so convincingly. When she declares “All I ever wanted was you,” on the haunting ballad ‘I Know’, you believe her, and it becomes the album’s most intensely poignant moment.
As with the words, the music is sombre, but this time, more assured than 2012’s Tramp, with Van Etten more her own woman, less in thrall to her influences. Here are slow ballads with the loping feel of country and the stateliness of soul (‘Tarifa’ and the album highlight, the closing track ‘Every Time The Sun Comes Up’), and songs which introduce new elements to her sound - the electronic underpinnings of ‘Our Love’ and the oboe and clarinet backing of the wonderfully soulful ‘Nothing Will Change’.
The album is marred slightly by a couple of bombastic songs, especially the 6.30 minutes of ‘Your Love Is Killing Me’ - which should have been banished to the vaults - but overall Are We There is a step forward for Van Etten and it’s her sublime voice, investing everything with authority and honesty, that carries this album so well.