It sounds like tough work being Sharon Van Etten. One shouldn’t presume a songwriter is detailing strictly personal experiences, but when a voice positively bleeds with emotion like Van Etten’s, it’s hard to separate the individual from the art.

Are We There is relationship music. It’s not necessarily breakup music, but if your heart’s burning Van Etten offers surplus stimulus for lamentation. Concordantly, her visceral vocal projection is apt for enthralled lovers to unite under the sublime feeling.

Producing the record herself (and taking her impeccable live band into the studio), the New York songwriter has never sounded more confident. Musically, Are We There is a progression from its stunning predecessor, Tramp. There are no straight-up rock numbers to be found. In their place are staggered R&B (‘Taking Chances’), autumnal and subtly synthesized contemplation (‘Our Love’), and gut-wrenching crescendos (‘Your Love Is Killing Me’). Americana-tinged closing number ‘Even When The Sun Comes Up’ provides absolution by willingly acknowledging the ugly that lies within the beautiful.

Van Etten’s fourth LP takes cues from Leonard Cohen, PJ Harvey, Nick Cave and The Walkmen, but it doesn’t lean on these influences too transparently. Rather, Van Etten deploys her own, singular sensitivity while showing loving appreciation for the discourse her distinct voice is contributing to.


Are We Thereis out now through Jagjaguwar / Inertia.

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