Sharon Van Etten
For all the attention that was paid to her 2012 break-through Tramp, Sharon Van Etten is an artist with a manifest hunger to turn another corner. Writing from free-flowing emotional honesty and vulnerability creates a bond with the listener that few contemporary musicians can match. Compelled by a restless spirit, Van Etten is continuously challenging herself. Now, the result is Are We There, a self-produced album of exceptional intimacy, sublime generosity and immense breadth.
While most musicians are quite happy to leave the production end of things to someone else, with Are We There, Van Etten knew it was time to make a record entirely on her terms. The saying goes “fortune favors the bold” and yet this boldness had to be tempered. For this, Van Etten found a kindred spirit in veteran music producer Stewart Lerman whose expertise gave her the freedom to make Are We There the way she imagined. Originally working together on Boardwalk Empire, they gently moved into new roles, rallying around the idea of collaborating in Lerman’s studio in New Jersey.
It is clear from Are We There’s opening chords, we are witnessing a new awareness, a sign of Van Etten in full stride, writing, producing and performing from a place that seems almost mythical, were it not so touchable and real. Always direct, and never shying away from even the most personally painful narratives, Van Etten’s songwriting continues to evolve. Many of the songs deal with seemingly impossible decisions, anticipation, and then resolution. She sings of the nature of desire, memory, of being lost, emptiness, of promises and loyalty, fear and change, of healing and the true self, violence and sanctuary, waiting, of silence. The artist who speaks in such a voice is urging us to do something, to take hold and to go deeper.