On Sharon Van Etten

Posted by Tobias Carroll

Lately, I’ve been talking with friends about the year’s best albums. It’s been a discussion with no clear winner for me as yet; Beach House and Four Tet have impressed me quite a bit, and the second half of The National’s High Violet is nicely wrenching. But none of them has necessarily stood out and proclaimed itself to be the year’s best album.

Sharon Van Etten’s new Epic is something of a latecomer to this category, but it may well end up taking the whole thing. It’s only seven songs long, but both the songs themselves and the way in which they’re arranged are fantastic. At the Voice‘s Sound of the City blog, my friend and onetime editor Christopher Weingarten talks with Van Etten about her song “Love More.” And: yes, it’s damn good. But in its context in the album, it’s even better; the way it fits with the six songs that precede it is utterly devastating. Epic is a short record, true, but it’s an album so in control of its components — the way it blends folk-influenced songwriting, heartbreaking vocal harmonies, and a devastating through-line of drone — that it leaves you floored, leaves you unable to focus on anything except its music. And in a time of music that seems designed for transient listening, songs that force your attention are worth your time indeed.