In the past two years of cool hell, there have been records that might console you (Ignoring), albums that could support you (Rough and rowdy manners) and even pop songs so provocative and absurd that they might make you briefly forget about the relentless catastrophe unfolding (“WAP”/“Lounge Chair”). But no song from the long years of confinement was more likely to have you opening the windows and dancing on the table than ” Like before “, by Sharon Van Etten wonderful collaboration 2021 with Angel Olsen.
In 2009, on his first album which was not a house CD-R, Van Etten sang ” I am the tornado, you are the dust”. The terrible beauty of her voice was already evident, but she seemed weary of the emotional turmoil, hemmed in by fences “falling but still surrounding me.” ” Like before “ felt like the storm that had gathered in by Van Etten working for more than 10 years to finally break an epic force twelve worthy of Roy Orbison. And it left you wondering where the storm might take her next.
She was arguably the hardest working woman in lockdown, joining fountains of waynecovering Elvis Costello, beach boys, Daniel Johnson, Yoko Ono and the Velvetreleasing one of the most sorry Christmas singles ever, recording an audiobook and hosting a 10th anniversary edition of his second album, Epicfeaturing a record of notable covers from peers and inspirations including Courtney Barnett, Lucinda Williams and Fiona Apple.
At first glance, ” Door “, the single that preceded her sixth album, suggested she was perhaps emerging in some sunny emotional highlands. Video features Van Etten pump it Benatar beats on his boombox and joins his Pilates instructor Stella for a vigorous workout in the golden light of a California studio, like a 21st century Olivia Newton John cores of power and quarantine well-being. Everything feels light years away
mad, desperate jersey girl the freedom she laughed at ” Seventeen “.
But in reality, listen to the song and the darkness that has long fueled his work quickly reveals itself. While the Sharon in the studio laughs and performs his kinesthetic leaps, the Sharon on the soundtrack avoids eye contact and tries to slam the door on stalkers and those who want to “steal his life”. She said that since ” Door “ was written in 2020, at the low point of a new flurry of depression and anxiety.
” Door “ does not appear on We got it all wrong, by Van Etten sixth album in 13 years – she said she sees the album as a self-contained, self-contained narrative, and the songs only make sense emotionally in that context – but this acts as a transition from 2019 Remind me tomorrow. This album had ended amidst the dreamy hum of a music box John Congleton electronic production, on the note of hope of a future mother who feels that she has found her way back home.
So many of the songs on the new record are aubades – that is, parting songs set in the light of dawn, though here they tend not to be about lovers parting so much as those who struggle with isolation, insomnia, and wandering moments of the eerie peace of early parenthood. . The album opens with “Darkness Fading”, a soft strumming of a song, so quiet you can hear the shooting stars falling, that slowly turns into an awesome prayer trying to hold back the darkness that’s still there beyond the blue sky, the perfect lawn, the daytime world of domestic life. It leads directly into ” My house “a funereal ballad of troubled parental worry and loss.
It can be difficult to avoid confessional and biographical interpretations with an artist like Sharon Van Etten. She openly spoke about her songwriting as a form of therapy and, aware of the impact her songs had on her audience, even made time to return to college to study mental health counselling. all i canthe audible memoirs she recorded last year, consciously integrated her early songs into the story of her life, in a fashion inspired by by Springsteen Broadway show – “Wonder Years meet Sopranos”, as she said herself.
Therefore, the new record could (and no doubt will) be defined simplistically as a woman’s struggle to emerge from postnatal depression during the global lockdown. Which is a bit like suggesting the works of Helen Ferrante or Karl Ove Knausgaard are truly remarkably detailed parenting journals. It disregards the pure alchemy and artistry involved.
Although largely recorded in his new home studio in Los Angeles, with the help of Daniel Knowles (once from Nottingham Amusement parks on fire) and various friends and neighbors, We went… is above all an incredible sounding record. On its 10 titles, it integrates Jupiter synths and the Saturnian rhythms of Remind me tomorrow and the austere, faint strumming of his early records to create a truly cosmic dynamic range, from the softest whisper to the most desolate cry.
If there are moments of calm, almost unbearable, of immense intimacy, there are also “Headspace” an urgent, anti-doomscrolling anthem that sounds like Sisters of Mercy and Berlin write an industrial power ballad, and “Errors”a deranged disco track with something of the sordid electro swagger of the 80s High ZZ. The closure ” Far “meanwhile, sets sail for the heavenly Las Vegas residence of the Cocteau twins.
But the disc’s defining heart could be the few seconds of dawn’s twinkling chorus and the whispering tidal wave that stretches between ” To come back “ and ” Dark “ – the sounds of a California morning emerging as the locked highways fall silent. The first song is Van Etten awakened once more to crave fully, passionately, Hurricane Orbison mode – at the climax it sounds as if it were singing from the depths of the abyss of sorrow Roy approached at the end of ” It’s finish “.
On the second song, the storm clouds part. Like when Dante emerges from the underworld, it’s not yet daylight, but at least the stars are now visible and spinning above our heads. And like Patsy Clineexhausted by her nocturnal ramblings, her voice breaks as it rises, dives and falls, from celestial harmony to bitter and mad remorse.
In a dark, Dylan-ish line, she concludes, “It’s not dark… It’s only dark, inside of me.” It’s not the sweet song of silver larks from a Broadway show, and it won’t have you dancing on those tables, but for a performer so long followed by the black hounds of despair, it feels like a hard-earned breakthrough. .