Sharon Van Etten
Are We There


5.0
classic

Review

by robin EMERITUS
August 8th, 2014 | 79 replies


Release Date: 05/27/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: you like it.

“Your Love Is Killing Me” is currently playing in my living room. We’re separated by a wall, which is kind of nice. Listening to it kind of makes me feel the same way I do when I’m at a Swans gig not wearing ear buds; I should totally, absolutely have them in – the highest, most evil-reducing quality possible, and next time, I swear I’m not going to go deaf. Every time I listen to “Your Love Is Killing Me” I feel kinda like I shouldn’t be turning it up to my amp’s dubious MAX setting and that maybe I should just never listen to it again. A wall seems like a good substitute for that – it makes me concentrate on it less. It makes me less attached to what is ultimately a horrible, disturbing masterpiece.

I think the point of “Your Love Is Killing Me” is that I should need there to be a wall between me and the song, a little protective forcefield that captures all of its evil shit, but I don’t; rather, I listen up close, ears piqued between the speakers, treating the pain like the marvellous scenery Van Etten lets her hair blow in the wind for. Van Etten’s rallying cry on Are We There is to an abusive lover – “You tell me that you like it / when our minds become diseased” – but, in a way, it feels like it’s to us: when tragedy strikes, when it’s turned into art, when you scrobble it to your last.fm account a hundred times and stamp a little loveheart next to it? You like it.

I don’t think Are We There is a meta kind of masterpiece, though, a deconstructive piece of music about listening to break-ups rather than going through them: it’s no Burn Your Fire, because Van Etten is more interested in walking into the blazing fire than stepping back and watching it crackle. “Your Love Is Killing Me” just reminds me, momentarily, that I’m listening to treachery and desolation, and that I can’t get enough of it. The kind of indie rock songs I’d scale against it, in terms of grandiosity, aren’t as unhealthy to love: “Rebellion” and “Wake Up” are about really living, and “I’ll Believe In Anything” is about winning. “Your Love Is Killing Me” is just a lost bloody cause. It rises and rises, the drums played like they’ve been sounded – calling an army of the defeated to battle – and the guitars crunchy, ripe for judgment day. Van Etten’s voice, too, makes majestic gestures: it soars, sustaining notes for choruses at a time. If I find this song, one that had to be manipulated and destroyed to get made, to be sweet and addictive, it’s because of the confrontation: Van Etten can’t step back for a minute, so how could I?

Oh, and like, of course the very next song is called “Our Love”, and is sleek and adoring and all about the beats. Van Etten is a supreme producer (she might have benefited from Aaron Dessner one upon a time, back when she made songs that play out in fractures, under dimmed lights – she doesn’t anymore) but she’s an even more phenomenal record writer. The scene changes are pristine, anachronistic but never contradictory, because isn’t love one thing but not the other? “Our Love” can contain the blisters of “Your Love Is Killing Me” and nonetheless sound like it was made for two lovers to dance to. Van Etten can switch from a completely untouched piano ballad to two songs that may well have been made by London Grammar on another, sparkling day (the synths on “Break Me”, oh my). I don’t think anyone’s made a record that understands the need for flow, but never for homogeneity or ‘tightness’, since the War On Drugs’ ambient-guitar showdown Slave Ambient. You can never get enough air, on Are We There, but there’s so much passing through it.

Really, though, I can just never get enough of these records, the ones that sound so aspirational but front so much realism. I could never not find a song as wide-eyed and gorgeously, sadly arranged as “Every Time The Sun Goes Up” to be romantic, but Van Etten would tell you it damn well isn’t: “I wash your dishes / but I shit in your bathroom”. It’s probably going to be the most used line of 2014, the one y’all scrawl out or repeat in your worst moments. And there’s “I Love You But I’m Lost”, which expresses unrequited love by explaining why it can’t be expressed: she sings “I love you but I’m not someone who takes shots”, but the song gets made. Are We There only very momentarily makes me realise that I am listening to something quite horrific, but it pretty much always makes me think I’m listening to something special.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
ExplosiveOranges
August 8th 2014


2684 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Woah, a new robin review.

Digging: Leon Vynehall - Music For The Uninvited

PunchforPunch
August 8th 2014


6280 Comments


crazy dude

Digging: Robert Hood - Fabric 39

Gyromania
August 8th 2014


15716 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

lovely write up

top 5 of 2014 for me

robin
Emeritus
August 8th 2014


4248 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I
MAG
INE
when

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
August 8th 2014


16016 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

Damn Robin we usually agree on everything

Rudy convinced me to give The War On Drugs another chance though, and now I love it, so maybe I'm just getting it all wrong this year

Digging: Yellowcard - Lift a Sail

Gyromania
August 8th 2014


15716 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

love the way you described your love is killing me and contrasted it against i'll believe in anything

NorthernSkylark
August 8th 2014


3301 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

this is one of the more personal reviews i actually like, thanks

and yeah, your rating is appropriate



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wwf
August 8th 2014


739 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I was just wondering when this would finally get attention here

One of the best albums of the year

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
August 8th 2014


16016 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

Also your rating says 4.5

NorthernSkylark
August 8th 2014


3301 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

i know? and yours say 3.4

Gyromania
August 8th 2014


15716 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

you know me wellllllllllll

Hovse
August 8th 2014


895 Comments


Similar Bands: The Antlers, The National, Wye Oak

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
August 8th 2014


16016 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

I was talking to Robin, because his review says 5

NorthernSkylark
August 8th 2014


3301 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

oh ok, makes more sense

Spare
August 8th 2014


5308 Comments


luvly

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tommygun
August 8th 2014


24936 Comments


omg

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SeedsofNone
August 8th 2014


336 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

avg needs to be higher

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
August 8th 2014


3450 Comments


holy shit this review is wonderful teach me how to write robin plz

Chrisjon89
August 9th 2014


3640 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

love this. and yeah Your Love Is Killing Me is massive

scottpilgrim10
August 9th 2014


3548 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is pretty underwhelming at times, but still enjoyable

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