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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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It was becoming obvious around the time of Sharon Van Etten's 2010 release "Epic" that we were witnessing the journey of a singer songwriter from obscurity to major league contender. Van Etten's last album "Tramp" verged on magical with songs to tussle with, live with and eventually fall in love with. She has never been shy to share her deepest emotions but on this new album she lays herself bare. "Are we there" represents a troubling emotional crash put to music. It is the story of a relationship wrecked by the demands of career and dark hints of abuse. Instrumentally the album is her most piano based yet and whilst the songs are about hurt they are nevertheless accessible and uniformly great. The opener "Afraid of Nothing" starts with a simple piano note, a lightly chiming guitar and a brilliant vocal from Van Etten. It is great song and draws you back time after time but better is to follow. The real killer track on the album is "Your Love is killing me" a staggering six minutes plus of musical catharsis. It commences with a funereal organ and oozes raw power from the off and what about those lyrics? They are littered with anger and regret not least "When I let you walk over me/You tell me that you like it/You love me as you torture me/You told me that you liked it". Not since "Blood on the Tracks" has a wrecked relationship been charted with such devastating force.

The fireworks, which follow, are not as explosive but there is great music to be discovered. The gentle ballad "Our Love" is almost sweet by comparison, yet even here she confesses that "I'm reliving my own hell / someone throws the ladder down / Still don't know what I have found in our love." After listening to the excellent "I love you but I'm lost" this reviewer now understands why Van Etten is often described as a cross between Joni Mitchell and P J Harvey. Her music touches the deepest theme of heartache yet always has an edge. Van Etten's use of the National's Aaron Dresner as producer adds to this not least on the pounding grandeur of "You know me well" and the aching beauty of the exquisite piano ballad "I Know". Van Etten does end the album on a lighter note with "Every time the sun comes up" where she cheekily questions "People say I'm a one-hit wonder, but what happens when I have two? The track fades out, and captures Van Etten finally breaking into laughter, a fleeting moment of light relief to cap all the preceding drama.

"Are We There," confirms Sharon Van Etten as one of the cream of the crop amongst the current lavish abundance of great American female artists. It is an album about wreckage, the fallout from disintegration and looking back before you move on. It is one of the best records released this year and utterly compelling.
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This is a very fine album which has real musical and lyrical intelligence and genuine feeling underlying it. Sharon van Etten has a powerful, haunting voice and uses some rather unconventional harmonies which have great dramatic effect. Coupled with her original chord structures and melodic invention, it all goes to make songs which are distinctive and very powerful. They're not always an easy, relaxing listen by any means but they draw you in and often have a powerful emotional impact. There is also true beauty here in places - the lovely falling cadences in I Know and the beautiful Our Love, for example. There is more to be heard here every time I listen to it.

The whole album is a bit of real class, I think, and has the lasting quality of beauty built on noble bones. Red on Black has already written an excellent review here and has said much of what I was going to say, so I won't bang on needlessly. I suggest you rear RoB's review, listen to a few samples and snap this up. It is something quite special.
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on 2 October 2014
Sharon Van Etten is something of a rarity; a singer-songwriter that has somehow avoided the trappings that title brings. Her quiet vulnerability coupled with an underlying confidence gives her music a believably balanced quality. A hauntingly sweet voice, patiently wading through each song echoes the likes of Aimee Mann and Lana Del Rey, yet her identity remains untouched, her unwavering voice instantly recognizable. Garnering a significant following and enjoying the likes of Bon Iver and The National covering her seminal single “Love More”, Van Etten’s fourth album Are We There, picks up where the brooding Tramp left off, yet it seems she’s once again reinvigorated her sound.

“Afraid of Nothing” acts as the perfect slow burner to begin Are We There, the simplicity of sauntering piano and guitar allowing Van Etten’s vocals to revel in the emptiness of it all. Her vocals soon become ethereal, a languid 6/4 groove patiently leads the song to a humble close, the album suitably introduced. It’s a sound we’ve come to love and associate with Van Etten, and it’s one that is quickly forgotten on her single “Taking Chances”.

Methodical drum machines, distant humming synth and faraway guitar pave the way for some of Etten’s most memorable melodies, the chorus injected with a beguiling indie charm. It’s a real departure from what we’re used to, yet it’s still intrinsically everything Etten has ever been, just in a different wrapper. Surprisingly though, it’s the only song of its kind on the record, the remaining forty-minutes of the album following on from where “Afraid of Nothing” left off. Whilst those forty-minutes take us back into a world only Etten could create, there’s still a distant melody floating above the clouds, one that lingers in the air, begging to be heard once more.

Are We There is another salient piece from Etten, it retains that same heart-felt honesty, eschewing the overtly cryptic or romanticized lyrics so often found in the genre. The chorus for “Your Love is Killing Me”, is unrelenting in its frankness; “Break my legs so I won’t walk to you, cut my tongue so I can’t talk to you, burn my skin so I can’t feel you, stab my eyes so I can’t see you.” Her unfaltering gift for crafting such alluring melodies and harmonies is what sears each lyric into our minds, the latter half of the album being home to some of her most poignant and affecting moments. And as the perfect closer “Every time the sun comes up” drifts away, the melancholic reverie is lifted by a studio outtake as Etten laughs into the microphone. It’s a simple addition but one that provides the perfect closure to Are We There, an album which transfixes and enamours from start to finish.

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on 16 January 2016
A bit like KD Laing with angst and a dark side - strong stormy songs just the right side of tuneful. Her voice has that deep moody sound and is not fey or girly. And the music really grows on you - subtle and interesting lyrics and tunes - a winner.
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on 17 June 2014
One of the best singer songwriters around at the moment,this is a collection of slow burn,haunting,ballads.The songs are slow & some are almost heavy with there slightly grungy backing,although the
piano does provide much of the foundation.
An intellegent album where the songs are catchy but not in the poppy way which sounds odd but part way through them,they seemed to click & i felt i almost new the melody.
More quality material,more please!!
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on 6 September 2014
Not usually my sort if music, bought bought because of good reviews. It is a really good listen- nice music, thoughtful lyrics.
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on 19 May 2016
One of the albums of 2014 it's true, but that year and 2015 were the best for many years with Sleaford Mods' Divide and Exit, John Grant's Grey Tickles Black Pressure, Courtney Barnett's Sometimes I Sit and Think And Sometimes I Just Sit, Ezra Furman's Perpetual Motion, Scott Walker's Soused, Julia Holter's Have you in My Wilderness, La Roux's Trouble in Paradise, Pere Ubu's Carnival of Souls, Black Lips' Arabia Mountain and David Corley's Available Light.

Sharon van Etten's voice, intent manifest in that voice and individual style are extraordinary. The best way to try and sum her up would be that she is a cross between early PJ Harvey and Joni Mitchell. She also has the Ricky Lee Jones blur to her enunciation, which is a delicious jazz element present in the voice.

Apart from the last track, Every Time The Sun Comes Up, all the songs are amazingly strong. As for that last one, "one hit wonder" (as in drug use) and "s*** in your bathroom" are very very clunky lyrics. Try instead Paul Westerberg's brilliant "Sunrise Always Listens" or bookend the day with the two tracks!
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on 17 July 2015
This album just gets better with each listen. I went too see sharon van etten live, equally as good the only minus was she didn't do..
I know. Which for me is the best song on.the album.
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on 25 December 2014
I liked it but I am fuming that there was no free digital download as advertised. Apparently it somehow got marked as a gift - even though it was not for anyone else and sent to my address and nothing added. Why would it add as a gift suddenly out of the blue??
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on 10 October 2015
Worth buying just for the feel. There are 3-4 really moving and outstanding tracks and a couple I tend to skip, but the album really works as a whole.
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