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Sharon Van Etten - We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong Music Album Reviews

Sharon Van Etten - We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong Music Album Reviews
Produced in her home studio in Los Angeles, Sharon Van Etten’s sixth album embraces the complications of the past two years. It is her most epic record, yet lyrically it is her most insular.

All through “Darkish,” a song toward the end of Sharon Van Etten’s sixth album, birds twitter away in the background. It’s the sparest track on We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong, which Van Etten produced in her new home studio in Los Angeles: just open-ended chords of inquiry on her acoustic guitar, buoying a similar openness to her steady but inconclusive meditation on what it takes to nurture the home you always yearned for. There is a thread between “Darkish” and Van Etten’s earliest CD-R recordings, a set of similarly intimate vignettes on which you could often hear a train rattling past the window of her tiny New York apartment. The changing ambience plots the material distance she has traveled in 14 years, from her DIY beginnings as a young woman fleeing an abusive relationship and claiming a space of her own, to a mother, partner, and beloved songwriter. What has remained constant—and compelling—is her instinct to use music to both shape and challenge her domestic environment.

The idea of a “pandemic record” already seems passé to many musicians apparently determined to avoid the association. Yet Van Etten has enthusiastically characterized We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong as one, and despite its declarative title, she embraces the complications of the past two years: how this rupture has affected her relationships, her priorities and responsibilities, and her capacity for hope. It’s her most epic record; her tenaciously beautiful voice is streaked like burning embers through the terrible black wildfire smoke she watched creep toward her new family home. But it’s also lyrically one of her most insular. She morphs between disembodied texture—as she sings about craving destruction, she becomes just another weightless shade of oblivion amid the cosmic winds of “Born”—and stinging, bewildered focus. “Been writing on the dust,” she all but roars over the uneasy martial rumble of “Darkness Fades,” a reference to the wildfire ashes that caked her car in the driveway. Here, in the confrontation between fatalism and futility, she captures the absurdity and anxiety of having one’s small life buffeted by dramatic external forces.

With every record, Van Etten has managed the difficult feat of expanding her sound without smothering her appeal: After 2014’s fluid Are We There, her 2019 album Remind Me Tomorrow embraced distortion and damned atmospherics. We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong is a raging bonfire, and although its scale is monumental, it boasts a revealing depth of field, every dramatic arc finely detailed. The tension doesn’t break until the third song, “I’ll Try,” when a hard, sharp drum roll lets loose a staticky ooze and a crescendo that sparkles with a little new-wave glitter; meanwhile, she considers helplessness in the face of fear with sincerity and a sneer. The album’s choruses are fierce, primal pleas, though Van Etten knows that want is never that straightforward, and surrounds them with verses mired in distance and confusion. “You come home to me,” she yearns on “Home to Me,” a future message for her young son that anticipates him resenting her professional commitments, and confronts the reality of who needs who more.

As beast-sized as it is, We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong is also a destabilizing record. Remind Me Tomorrow opened with Van Etten telling someone that she almost died, but she didn’t tell us how—a pointed non-disclosure from an artist whose early work detailed the emotional violence she sustained from a partner, and who came to feel the weight of that association as a public figure. Here, her lyrics are more fragmented and opaque than ever, keyed to an internal logic (often they take place at night, and contour conversations between lovers) and sometimes feeling almost unfinished, or purposefully restrained: “It was something like a window, and I wanted to break free,” she soars on “Born.” Fans of Van Etten’s sharp songcraft could find that frustrating, but her impressionistic approach builds a more effective picture of fear and human insufficiency than simply stumbling to articulate the ineffable might. “You love him by the stove light in your arms,” she sings in a tremor amid the tumult of “Anything,” a rare, tangible moment of safety.

Many of these songs invite you to drift in their tidal lurch, which gives the few moments of directness their prickle. Van Etten saves her most corrosive textures for the most intimate song: “Headspace” is a declaration of need set to a dangerous, industrial throb that’s strewn with sonic detritus—a powerful evocation of how sex can become conflicted territory in a long-term relationship. “Pull my hips, remind you, see/Ten-year-old white cotton briefs want play,” she pleads with disarming awkwardness, before finding indignation and vulnerability: “Baby, don’t turn your back to me,” she sings in a towering refrain. It’s followed by “Come Back,” a blast of Van Etten at her most classic and clarion, a reliable lighthouse illuminating a path to safety.

When romantic realignment comes, it brings humor and us-against-the-world swagger. “Even when I make a mistake, mistake, mistake/It’s much better than that!” Van Etten sings triumphantly on “Mistakes.” It’s the biggest pop song she’s ever written, a terse disco beat grounding her alluringly cool and close vocals. “I dance like Elaine,” she admits, “but my baby takes me to the floor/Says ‘More, more.’” Sparks fly, restoring her confidence for the length of a song. We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong isn’t the sort of album to offer instructions on how we might make things right. But having faith in one another, and ourselves, Van Etten hints convincingly, might be a good set of foundations to build from.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Sharon Van Etten - We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong Music Album Reviews Sharon Van Etten - We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Monday, May 16, 2022 Rating: 5

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