Sharon Van Etten, Are We There – Review

sharon van etten

Released two years after her breakthrough album, ‘Tramp’, ‘Are We There’ is the record we’ve been waiting for. Haunting and filled with harmonies, Sharon Van Etten created the record with producer and kindred sprit Stewart Lerman. An album of imagined possibility, it has been made with Lerman’s expertise on Van Etten’s terms. And what great terms they are. The result is one of exceptional intimacy, sublime generosity and immense breadth.

The record documents a crumbling relationship and speaks of the impossible decisions, anticipation and resolutions that come along with this. Both musically and lyrically, you can tell that Van Etten has challenged herself. ‘Are We There’ doesn’t have the same feel as her previous albums, there is more lucidity, strength and if possible, awareness.

Clashing symbols with wonderfully smoky vocals rise up and around you. This is paired with sweeping sounds that seem to go on endlessly, giving the music an almost untouchable quality. Raw and open, lyrically ‘Are We There’ has all of the emotional resonance that Van Etten is known for. In this sense, it is perfectly juxtaposed. The lyrics take you deep into Van Etten’s heart creating a bond with the listener while the music takes you outside of yourself, to a place just beyond your consciousness

The epic ‘Your Love is Killing Me’ is a wonderful track with a slow and intense build that reverberates in your soul. Much like the entire album, you can feel the music in the pit of your stomach while her voice floats around the chasm of your brain. ‘Are We There’ is a journey that transports you down to the darkness of Van Etten’s experience. Intimate and personal, it is beautifully vulnerable.

Put on ‘Are We There’, allow yourself to be empty of thought and fill your newly created silence with Van Etten’s infinite wisdom. Trust us, it’s worth it.

Katherine Helps


Review by Katherine Helps. Are We There is out now via Inertia.