16 Sharon van Etten: epic Ten

2019 #8, 2014 #3

Don’t think aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah know?? Y’only tryna sa-ha-haave, yourself! Fuck, yes! I motherfucking love this shit! And I’m not only referring to the original songs on Sharon van Etten’s original 2010 album, her second release and one that indisputably catapulted her into that vaunted selection of artists you should perhaps, maybe, kinda care about. A lot.

While we’re here, can more artists do this please? I have a deeply psychological issue where I will only listen to records released in the same calendar year as when I’m encountering them, with the odd annual exception if you’ve died or if you’re, erm, Yeasayer. Or Prince. If you’re an artist that I’ve discovered in the past five years or so -when this strange affliction really started to take hold and become near dictatorial – then I’m just never going to have the chance to go back and appreciate your earlier stuff unless you rerelease it. Ideally encased with as many bells and whistles as possible, making it an official reissue and eligible for that year’s list. Like, Lupe Fiasco, I’ve fallen in love with you, but only since 2014, so can you rerelease your older stuff that people say is, actually, much better? Kid Cudi, you too, I only started appreciating your majesty as recently as 2016. Could you rerelease that terrible rock album you did, I am beyond curious. But not, like, curious enough to disobey the list.

I was first bewitched by Sharon’s 2014 masterpiece (and best record of most years) ‘Are We There’, so obviously her astonishing 2010 album ‘epic’ (see? Not a typo, it’s stylised as no caps. But the ‘Ten’ part is capitalised. ‘epic Ten’. Don’t come at me with your grammar takes) was well out of bounds. And it really is fucking epic, yeah?? Seven tracks of the sort of utter heartbroken beauty we would have accepted as her forte roughly a decade later.

However, this reissue does my favourite fucking thing in the world, which is to celebrate the record’s influence and the importance it meant to so many artists by collecting covers of the original’s tracks by acts appreciative of the album’s magic. Tegan and Sara might have done the most notable one recently, and also Metallica did one this year (a band and album I adore, but I just felt I had too many reissues on this year’s list!), but why isn’t this the fucking standard? Why didn’t the Manics’ reissue of ‘Gold Against the Soul‘ last year feature a Beabadoobee cover of Nostalgic Pushead and Demi Lovato banging out Symphony of Tourette??

And what a veritable Necessary Evil feast ‘epic Ten’ is! Big Red Machine (2019 #88), Fiona Apple (2020 #8), Courtney Barnet (2015 #40) and Shamir (about a million fucking entries)! Also Lucinda freaking Williams! Who may have never made Necessary Evil before because I didn’t start it in 1953 or whatever, but is absolutely a big deal! And also Idles. The perfect record, obviously designed exclusively to my tastes: both introducing me to an album by one of my favourite artists that I would have had otherwise had no way of legally listening to, and also doing my favourite thing of including covers of the record by amazing artists. And also Idles. Shameless pandering, Sharon, and you should be deeply ashamed. But it worked.


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