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Sharon Van Etten

Brooklyn, NY-based folksinger-songwriter SHARON VAN ETTEN (born February 26, 1981, Clinton, New Jersey) echoes a few heartfelt vocalists of bygone age, three that come to mind are JUDIE TZUKE, NEKO CASE or JOSEPHINE FOSTER. From a background that saw her surface from Middle Tennessee State University, she was initially mentored by Kyp Malone (of TV On The Radio) to carry on with her career in indie-folk-based music.
Lo-fi with a distinctive lazy alto drawl with minimalist acoustics, Language Of Stone duly released her debut album BECAUSE I WAS IN LOVE (2009) {*7}, a fragile, lilting and impassive set that was occasionally polished up with sparse backing; check out `I Wish I Knew’, `For You’ and `Tornado’. Augmented by a full band and delivered on the Ba Da Bing independent, EPIC (2010) {*7} drew seven more-upbeat dirges that broke free of the folk confines in one fell swoop; the alt-rock `Peace Signs’ was matched by the country twang of `Save Yourself’.
Two effective songs recorded with GREG WEEKS (of ESPERS) that escaped her earlier sessions, `I’m Giving Up On You’ and `You Didn’t Really Do That’ were issued as a double-header 7-inch shortly afterwards. These wee gems just might’ve convinced indie biggie Jagjaguwar Records (BON IVER, et al) to give her a deal – most definitely a certainty to rise in the future and a star in the making.
These prophetic sentiments were imparted on VAN ETTEN’s inaugural Top 75 set, TRAMP (2012) {*8}; entitled due to time spent homeless after a relationship break-up. Co-produced with multi-instrumentalist Aaron Dessner (of The NATIONAL) and augmented by a host of other indie celebrities Thomas “Doveman” Bartlett, Zach Condon (of BEIRUT), Matt Barrick (of WALKMEN), JULIANNA BARWICK and WYE OAK’s Jenn Wasner, frank and direct songs such as `Serpents’, `Warsaw’, `Kevin’s’, `We Are Fine’ and `Leonard’, presented her in a confessional and vulnerable limbo – but that’s where the listener could empathize if need be.
2014’s highly-rated transatlantic Top 30 breakthrough, ARE WE THERE {*8} – part co-produced with Stewart Lerman – was a further therapeutic resolution to her dark life. Examining her inner psyche and relaying it to all asunder might be shock-and-awe to mere mortals, but Sharon sang to her romantic ghosts from some sorrowful past; `I Love You But I’m Lost’, `You Know Me Well’ (very LANA DEL REY), the toxic bittersweet `Your Love Is Killing Me’ and the heart-wrenching opener `Afraid Of Nothing’, would rally her battle-cry to love’s foibles.
A year on, but, in a way, like an accompanying missing link-up piece to her previous work of art, the 7-inch single and, in turn, the 5-track EP `I Don’t Want To Let You Down’ was unveiled in June 2015. Sporting roll-over personnel that included WAR ON DRUGS’ Adam Granduciel and David Hartley, solo artist Heather Woods Broderick (ex-LOCH LOMOND, et al) and some fresh faces in Brad Cook (of MEGAFAUN) and Darren Jessee (of BEN FOLDS FIVE), once again Sharon stripped bare her heart and soul on this and other seductive songs: `Just Like Blood’, `I Always Fall Apart’, `Pay My Debts’ and the live `Tell Me’.
Combining her time in the role of Rachel in the Netflix sci-fi/drama series, The OA (ten episodes from 2016 onwards); and about to appear in the movie, Always, SHARON VAN ETTEN chalked up another fearless set with REMIND ME TOMORROW (2019) {*9}. Producer John Congleton captivated more of her observational melancholy; the opening number `I Told You Everything’ a prelude to yearning love song, `No One’s Easy To Love’. The spooky `Memorial Day’ defied musical gravity; and probably took subliminal inspiration from horror Hollywood, whilst the shimmering `Comeback Kid’ was a throwback to post-punk SIOUXSIE. Sharon was not content unveiling her a smorgasbord of sensual retro-/introspection, and with not a bad track on the horizon; particular faves resonating from the PJ HARVEY-esque `Seventeen’ and `You Shadow’ to the lonesome rainy day anchor song, `Stay’, the sonic Sharon eased out of the shadows of her idols and into her own shiny singer-songwriter shoes.
© MC Strong 2011/GFD2 // rev-up MCS Jun2015-Jun2019

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