3 Sharon van Etten: Are We There

Wow… Just… Wow…

Sharon Van Etten’s fourth (obviously not self-titled- watch and learn Clark) is an absolutely devastating Sturm und Drag bulldozer of emotion, a sharp piercing blade of hopeless heartache that is as heartbreaking and moving as any movie you’ve seen since ‘Toy Story 3’. What makes ‘Are We There’ (the lack of a question mark in the album title is particularly significant) so especially moving is that it’s not about the big emotional turmoils in life, it’s not about that horrific break-up, not about the time fiancé Jeff shagged your sister, not about people close to you dying, not about that time you both sat down and watched the opening scene of ‘Up’ together (it seems I link large emotional feelings exclusively with Pixar movies. I’m Ok with that). Instead the album’s real power lies in its mortifying presentation of a relationship slowly crawling towards its end, the sad and slow death of a union that was once beautiful now just consists of two people silently hating each other yet staying together because they believe they for some reason should. Van Etten begins track eight by hoping ‘Maybe something will change’ but by the song’s end is clear where the relationship is now heading- ‘Nothing will change/Nothing will change/Nothing will change/Nothing will change’. The album is one 46 minute speculation over whether it’s all really worth it– why allow yourself to feel so close to someone when the massive possibility of it ending in this sort of sluggish despair exists? It’s unlikely this kind of slow surrender has ever been better caught musically, and Van Etten has abandoned the slow Americana that she was previously known for (apart from Taking Chances, the nearest the record has to a dud and a song that really halts the album’s flawless flow somewhat) and instead dressed the songs up in sumptuous music that acts as a much needed counterpoint to the lyrics’ occasional gloom. Thankfully just when you think you’ve been maybe clinically depressed ‘Are We There’ ends with the relatively sunny When the Sun Comes Up smirking slightly at the relationship’s collapse (‘I washed your dishes, but I shitted in your bathroom’) and the album concludes with Sharon giggling as she messes up a recording- maybe everything’s going to be alright. Shit, maybe this should be higher. Look, the top three are pretty much interchangeable to be honest, they’re all joint winners really, Ok?

Full album

Cover

Sharon has been stuck behind this tractor now for going on 20 minutes and is in real danger of being late to the Olly Murs gig

‘Oi mate’ she leans out the window ‘Any chance of moving aside, yeah?’

No response

‘Jesus… Anyone fancy a pint?’

3/5

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