Sharon Van Etten
Ba Da Bing!
By Micah McLain
It’s been reported that Sharon Van Etten had audiences crying during her intimate performances at this years SXSW – one listen to Epic closer “Love More” and it doesn’t take long to understand why. The track seems as if it’s been slowed down for maximum emotional effect; with a drawn-out organ intro that accompanies lyrics of young love, naivety and the hardest lessons to learn. As a sparse percussion back beat and delicate electric guitar ease in, the listener feels every word of “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.” In short, “Love More” is easily one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful songs you’re going to hear this year. To give you an idea of the tracks influence, it’s already been covered by fellow Van Etten admirers The National and Bon Iver.
Since recording her first album, Van Etten has gained national exposure while touring with The Antlers and being featured on their most recent album Hospice. This band mentality can be seen in the arrangement and recording of Epic with the addition of drums, piano, lap steel and a trio of backing vocalists; a stark contrast to the guitar and vocals minimalism of her debut Because I Was In Love. The seven tracks on the extremely personal Epic, much like her debut, deal with heartbreak and every emotion that comes along with it. And judging by Van Etten’s writing, she’s had more than her fair share of the ugly side of love during her relatively short 28 years on this earth.
An aggressively-strummed acoustic guitar is all the support Van Etten needs on album opener “A Crime,” an indictment of loving too much and promising to “never let myself love like that again.” A primal, steady bass drum beat adds to the anger and power of the fragmented lyrics contained within “Peace Sign.” Lap steel and harmonized backing vocals lend a genuine authenticity to the country-tinged “Save Yourself,” as Van Etten tells a lover “Don’t you think I know/You’re only trying to save yourself/Just like everyone else.” Robin Hilton of NPR has said of Van Etten, “I can’t recall hearing anything more beautiful in all my life” – and I think I’d have to agree.
Sharon Van Etten plays The EARL with Junip on November 21.