Sharon Van Etten – Are We There (Jagjaguwar)

Sharon Van Etten – Are We There (Jagjaguwar)

While Are We There and Tramp might still be neck and neck for the best SVE record, there’s no question in my mind that Are We There is the clearest, most cohesive image of Van Etten herself and everything she’s about as a musician. There are bits and pieces of everywhere she’s been on this record, coming together in a way that suggests a new way forward. As usual, Van Etten bleeds on this album, but the constant reiterations of how personal and confessional Van Etten’s music is have actually started to strike me as somehow reductive — a bit more attention could be paid to the beautifully strange form her vocal melodies so often take, or that totally soul-rearranging power in her voice. Still, there’s no question that Are We There is a piece of work that captures a lot of personal strife, and that can be a massive catharsis for the listener. The journey undertaken on the first five songs on Are We There alone is unreal, with “Your Love Is Killing Me” right there in the middle, a smoldering colossus of anguish that’s one of the most moving songs I heard in 2014. It’s not something you throw on casually some Saturday afternoon, but it’s the kind of stuff that’s there when you need it. Are We There can take a lot out of you, but it gives back even more. You need to consume this thing, inhale it — but it’s the kind of music that lets you know it’s OK to exhale once more, too. –Ryan [LISTEN]

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