Sharon Van Etten
A local folksinger steps out with a full band.
Wed Oct 6 2010
Sharon Van Etten's debut album, 2009's Because I Was in Love, was a one-woman affair, with stark folk arrangements that engaged through raw personal charm and home-recorded directness. On that disc, the local singer-songwriter's half strum, half fingerpick seemed to allude to the pulse of a drumbeat, the lo-fi setting to a swelling band. Van Etten makes both of those connections explicit on her new record, Epic (Ba Da Bing).
This time around, Van Etten delves into moody full-band textures, abetted by a cast that includes a trio of backup vocalists—She Keeps Bees' Jessica Larrabee, Espers' Meg Baird and Cat Martino, who provides echoing harmonies in Van Etten's live band. The songs examine broken relationships as before, but from a new perspective, alternately laconic and breezy, such as on the lap-steel-laced "Save Yourself," and menacing and apocalyptic, as on the droning, harmonium-driven closing ballad, "Love More" (a song that's already been tapped live by Bon Iver's Justin Vernon).
In step with the record, the singer's live shows have also been growing outward. At the grand opening for Park Slope venue the Rock Shop, this past August, Van Etten took the stage with a small combo—drums, bass and Martino on effects-laden vocals—chugging and twanging behind her. She also took the time to play a few by herself: At her two CD-release shows this week, look for both sides to be on display.