There’s something unequivocally haunting about the way Sharon Van Etten sings. From a technical standpoint, her range is low but malleable. She’s capable of belting lyrics with a guttural strength that one could imagine would fell a room. But Van Etten’s voice also has a tremble, a punctuating, questioning swoop that humanizes her music in the most subtle of ways. On Are We There, Van Etten’s fourth and latest offering for Jagjaguwar, the songs lean more heavily on the rhythm section than past albums, but it’s the stories Van Etten weaves that ultimately steal the show. “Help me deserve you, seeing me praise / You love me but you’ll change,” she sings on “I Love You But I’m Lost.” Later, “Break Me” piles Van Etten’s wavering voice on top of itself. “He can break me,” she bellows before hiccupping the remainder of the chorus, “With one hand to my … head.” The whole thing ends on a stunningly hopeful note with the loping “Every Time the Sun Comes Up,” but the takeaway from Are We There isn’t wallowing or optimistic; it’s a lingering slice of life offering, and it’s filled with the kind of brutally raw emotion that few artists can pull off as successfully as Van Etten.
Sharon Van Etten
Are We There