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Album Review

Boasting a mere seven songs, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten's sophomore effort hardly lives up to the lofty promise of its name, but where Epic fails to deliver in size, it more than makes up for in sound. Van Etten possesses one of those rare voices that can make even the weakest material soar, so the decision to open the album with the perfectly serviceable, yet ultimately forgettable, solo heartbreak rant “A Crime” makes sense, as what follows is simply electrifying. Backed by a full traditional rock band and bolstered by weepy lap steels and harmoniums, Van Etten's full serpentine croon, which falls somewhere between Kristin Hersh, Neko Case, and Brandi Carlile, addresses the usual subjects of failure and longing, but there’s a strange, dark confidence behind all of the self-examination that makes even the most clichéd confessional singer/songwriter utterance feel dangerous. Of the seven tracks, “Peace Signs” with its sinewy verses and pulsing kick drum that threatens to cut loose into a full-on highway jam at any minute (but doesn’t), the languid, reverb-heavy country-rock sleeper “Save Yourself,” and the Jeff Buckley-esque closer, “Love More,” provide the most immediate rewards, but the remaining four cuts (even “A Crime”) are just as hypnotizing once the buzz kicks in.

Biography

Born: 26 February 1981 in New Jersey

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Although she was born and raised in suburban New Jersey, Sharon Van Etten's folk music evokes the open landscapes and lonely expanses of Middle America. A dedicated choir student during her childhood, she began writing songs on her guitar as a high-school student and, upon moving to New York, started playing them in concert. Van Etten signed with the Chicago-based indie label Drag City and issued her intimate, official debut, Because I Was in Love, in spring 2009, followed by the lush, more band-oriented...
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Epic, Sharon Van Etten
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