Release Date: Sep 21, 2010
Record label: Ba Da Bing Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Folk
Boasting a mere seven songs, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten's sophomore effort hardly lives up to the lofty promise of its name, but where Epic fails to deliver in size, it more than makes up for in sound. Van Etten possesses one of those rare voices that can make even the weakest material soar, so the decision to open the album with the perfectly serviceable, yet ultimately forgettable, solo heartbreak rant “A Crime” makes sense, as what follows is simply electrifying. Backed by a full traditional rock band and bolstered by weepy lap steels and harmoniums, Van Etten's full serpentine croon, which falls somewhere between Kristin Hersh, Neko Case, and Brandi Carlile, addresses the usual subjects of failure and longing, but there’s a strange, dark confidence behind all of the self-examination that makes even the most clichéd confessional singer/songwriter utterance feel dangerous.
Apologies for starting at the end, but such is the sheer emotional weight of ‘Love More’ – the seventh and closing track on Epic – it really seems the correct place to begin. Built around a simple circular chord pattern (watch an unadorned live performance here), it crests in on a descending harmonium line, waves of feedback and lush reverb gradually swelling in the mix as Brooklyn’s Sharon Van Etten and her trio of backing vocalists paint an exquisite picture of loss and hard-won experience. It is heady, intoxicating stuff, lyrically oblique to the point that it’s unclear whether hope or regret win out.
If you’ve ever seen Sharon Van Etten live, you’ll know that she’s got an awful lot going for her. Chief among them is that stunning voice. Not since Neko Case first came on the scene has there been a more plainly stunning, shockingly natural singing voice than Van Etten’s. But if her last, mostly acoustic record, Because I Was In Love deftly put the confessional intimacy of her songs on display, then her new record, epic, goes in a whole other direction.
This past April, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon stood alone on stage at Memorial Hall in Cincinnati and played a song entitled "Love More". It was not a new Bon Iver tune but a cover culled from the songbook of Brooklyn's Sharon Van Etten. The way Vernon wandered through the slow, often overwhelming beauty of that song, one walked away from it feeling as if he needed to hear more from and about Van Etten.
With a voice like Sharon Van Etten’s, it’s easy to overlook any weaknesses. That seemed to be the case with last year’s debut, Because I Was In Love, wherein her raw vocal power carried much of the album despite its monochromatic tone. On her sophomore effort, Epic, Van Etten wisely expands her instrumentation and songwriting. The results might be mixed, but it offers a few glimpses to where her future musical path might take her.At seven songs and just over half an hour, Epic might seem unworthy of its name at first glimpse, but Van Etten packs a lot into these songs.
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Melds pedal steel and electronica into something really rather gorgeous. Laura Barton 2010 Sharon Van Etten's own description of her songs as "sad prairie folk music" is in part accurate; certainly the seven tracks that make up her latest offering, Epic, own all the wide-skied wistfulness of the American folk tradition. But such statements do little justice to Van Etten's ear for near-pop catchiness – single One Day, for example, runs at a pleasingly radio-friendly lollop, spurred on a little by shades of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Allan Sherman Not long ago it would have been inconceivable that Allan Sherman would ever seem timely or topical again. In the early 1960s, after a failed career as a television producer, he became the pudgy king of Borscht Belt-style song parodies, setting yuks about suburbia and clichés of ….