Published May 23, 2014Anguish anchors Sharon Van Etten's music; it's a focal point that has made for a ravishing core on her past three albums, and it transforms her fourth outing, too. On Are We There, Van Etten's guitars are largely replaced with organs and pianos. Instrumentally and personally, Van Etten is transitioning — into what, even she doesn't know yet, but her dissection of her current surroundings makes for a marvellous journey.
Are We There explores an internal struggle to change and prioritize things in her life, all in Van Etten's signature candid way with narratives: "You like it when I let you walk over me/ You tell me that you like it," she sings on "Your Love Is Killing Me." These words may not carry much weight on paper, but when Van Etten's voice trembles and warbles through each line, it sends a chill up straight up your spine. Even an improvised line like "I washed your dishes, but I shit in your bathroom," on the album-closing highlight "Every Time the Sun Comes Up" is telling of Van Etten's ability to turn blunt lines into poignant moments.
Are We There cuts deep into the skin of its creator and finds Van Etten more exposed than ever. It rides down a winding road with no definitive destination but, just like the album's serene cover, allows the listener to feel the wind in their hair and experience a moment of reconciliation, even if that moment is brief and reality is around its sharp corner.
Read our recent interview with Sharon Van Etten here. (Jagjaguwar)