I’ve always found female singers a little difficult. It’s always felt to me that they were singing for other woman and not for me. I grew up with a lot of 10,000 Maniacs, fronted by Natalie Merchant and I always found her voice a little cold despite the jangly tunes. Today the Laura Marlings and dare I say it Adeles’ of this world are lauded as brilliant songwriters, musicians and singers respectively. But for me personally? Nah, I can’t connect. I first heard Sharon Van Etten two weeks ago, and I was left a little confused, because, I really liked it.
Her earlier works were just her and a guitar, I read that she was in a relationship with some ‘Jerk’ who told her she was no good. I guess he was stuck in a dead end job stacking shelves, because I can’t see how any other emotion other than jealousy could have tried to surpress someone with this much talent. These days Sharon is followed around by a band and is hanging around with people like that guy from Beirut and a big hero of mine Aaron Dessner, who helped produce her latest album. That showed him.
Her music has that intensity, richness and pure emotion both musically and vocally that i’ve been unable to find and connect with in any other female singer, and with her latest album having numerous undercurrents of The National, I’m pretty hooked. Like The National, she makes me go back and invest time in it, and you get out what you put in, its a pretty rare two way thing.
She sings about familiar themes we’ve all heard before, but its the understated, melancholic way that a lot of her work is delivered that just reminds me so much of The National that it forces me to go back and afford it more and more playtime on my iPod, and when something slow and melancholic is followed by something with really gutsy punching drums, her voice sounding pretty vexed frankly and electric guitars just driving the song on, it just feels massive. Its a pretty beautiful combination of miserable and the monumental.
Her middle album, criticised by some for being two short, is entitled epic, and in many ways is epic, perhaps ‘gently epic’ could describe all her work. All seven songs on that album are brilliant, and its the perfect place to start with her work.