Sharon Van Etten is something of the ‘it girl’ in indie-Brooklyn right now, from her guest vocals work for The Antlers (QRO live review) to selling out Bowery Ballroom (QRO venue review) to recruiting The National’s (QRO spotlight on) Aaron Dessner to work on her upcoming record (she’s also opening for them in Europe). And, while Epic isn’t indie-rock, but rather sad, touching, alt-country twang, it’s more than powerful enough to deserve all of that praise.
Van Etten’s debut Because I Was In Love (QRO review) was solid singer/songstress, but it struggled to make itself stand out amid all of the stripped alt-folk out there today. Thankfully, she’s upped the instrumentation on Epic – not to ‘epic’ levels, but just the right amount of alt-country twang & more to make for a fuller sound, without sacrificing any of her vocal power. “A Crime” is both cutting and vulnerable, grit goes with the twang on “Peace Sign”, sad lap-guitar to “Save Yourself”, and “Don’t Do It” builds on emotional base into something not just touching but moving.
The only real instrumentation that really shouldn’t have been added was an accordion(-like) to “D sharp G” and “Love More”. Van Etten goes for the stripped sound again on both of these tracks, and while she still has her emotional cord, the vocals get a little bellow-y (a little Shilpa Ray-y – QRO album review). When the guitars and keys come in on closer “Love More”, they add weight to her voice, but also do point out that they were needed all the way through.
While Sharon Van Etten may travel in Brooklyn indie circles, she’s got a voice & sound much more at home in her native Tennessee. And while Epic may not be ‘epic’ (and, at seven songs, it is a bit short), it’s a powerful and moving record from an artist who’s not only found her voice, but is using it.
MP3 Stream: “A Crime“