Sharon Van Etten’s star has ascended quickly since the release of her 2009 debut, Because I Was In Love. So quickly, in fact, that it’s difficult to tell what has propelled this upward mobility: a loyal fanbase that hangs upon her every word, or the stoking of the musician circles that have embraced the singer/songwriter.
Regardless of the cause, Epic, her second release, proves that the groundswell of acclaim is deserved; her songs are taught and ready to rope in even the hardest of hearts, and her sound expands beyond the bare harmonies of her debut. Beginning with the winsome “A Crime,” Van Etten scours a vast range of emotions with a streamlined delivery that is light on frills buy heavy on honesty. “Peace Sign” is dire, Van Etten’s robust vocals pricked by a chipping chord progression that appeals to the heart but challenges the mind. Pedal steel and elegance imbue the country-inflected “Save Yourself,” furthering the emotion that emerges effortlessly from her songbook. Despite its beauty, “Dsharpg” detracts from the pace of the first half of the album, but even this – the dimmest of the seven tracks – can’t subvert the power of Van Etten’s temperate pen and passionate voice.
Sharon Van Etten is the real deal; a female artist that exorcises her experiences through song, without a soap box, a chip on her shoulder, or questionable motives. Epic is personal and majestic; a gorgeous release that hits close to the heart.
Epic is out now on Ba Da Bing Records.