Sharon Van Etten “Epic”



Sharon Van Etten, as the title of your recent release suggests, Epic.

{I want to write you a letter, Sharon, because I love you.  I want everyone to read this & then I want them to buy your record right now.}

By Andrew Whorehall

Dear Sharon Van Etten,

The first time I heard your voice on Don’t Do it off of your newest release, Epic, I wanted to hug you, whoever you are.  I had no idea you existed.  I had to pull over to the nearest parking lot on the east side of Rockford, IL, consumed by your voice, your band.  Hearing you sing Don’t Do it is very much like the first time I heard Bob Dylan sing Don’t Think Twice;  Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road;  Jeff Buckley’s Last Goodbye;  Sam Cooke’s Keep Movin’ On.  Woman, that’s some mighty fine company. Immediate goosebumps and I’ll admit, I think a tear or two had gathered between my ears and my eyes.  I quickly made a note to find epic etten.’  Against your song’s haunting advice, I did.  I found many great songs of yours online, at iTunes, at Daytrotter.  And I found Epic.

Like a google stalker on the trail for hot info, I heard about how you approached (stalked?) Kyp Malone of TV on The Radio to share your songs you had kept hidden for years.  Smooth.  Mr. Malone knows great music when he hears it obviously.  The scene talks, you have opened for him and will again?

Word is people stop to breathe the first time they see and hear you perform?  That’s happened to me a few times.  I’ll share some of these breathless performances with you, Sharon, because I love you and my dark soul is yours now, it’s free:

> Jeff Buckley, Green Mill, Chicago, always haunting me;

David Gray opened for Radiohead at Caberet Metro on ‘The Bends’ tour, robbing them of any emotion leftover with one song,Shine.

A few Jeff Tweedy, Lounge Ax performances from 94-97, the finest? With Jay Bennett, July 9th, 1997, The Handsome Family opened, a Wed. night memory that has stayed with me since.

REO Speedwagon at the Rockford Metro Centre in 1985 lingers with me, especially singing along to Can’t Fight this Feeling with my friends for my birthday gift that my Dad took us to at my request.

Ryan Adams came close once at Schubas during his Heartbreaker tour in Chicago but he was too hungover (or drunk) to focus on finishing close to 20 songs he started and couldn’t find energy to finish- he’s pretty talented, funny, charming even, but so are a lot of animals I’ve met at the zoo.

Chris Mills did it to me in Madison, twice, High Noon both times, wasn’t expecting it, but it happened.

Gary Louris, High Noon too

M. Ward & Cameron McGIll have had their oxygen-free moments in the past few years at many locations in the midwest.

> Robin Pecknold’s voice from Fleet Foxes came close sans mic in Milwaukee at the Pabst, but it reminded me of a Tweedy solo trick.

> Bruce Springsteen actually made me cry during Thunder Road (do not tell anyone)

> and Pavement gave me a swollen face from smiling too much in Milwaukee at the Pabst recently.

{There’s a few more, that’s all you get for now.}

Rock n roll is a powerful thing, Sharon, and i’m a real sucker for sensitive singer-songwriter material if it’s done just right.  You posses a great skill if you cause people to feel a lack of breath.  It’s a mighty feeling to connect with as a listener as you have with me, not live, but on record.   Don’t Do It, did it to me in a car.  It immediately triggered a feeling I had the first time I heard Jeff Buckley’s song, Last Goodbye, driving back to Peoria, IL in the middle of the night late August, 1994.  It’s a killer melody, a killer vocal performance, a killer recording, timeless- I’ll say that right now.  It’s the kind of ‘pop’ song that will haunt me for the rest of my life, as Last Goodbye & Grace in its entirety has done.  The rest of your record I had to buy online, Sharon. My only complaint actually, I want to feel it, read the artwork.  Regardless the download did it to me just like your album title suggested.

It sure takes some balls young lady to call your 2nd full length, Epic.  Barely 7 songs, 32:07, each second matters.  You’ve done your research as well, the perfect length for a perfect record is just that.  Every song, like the first one I heard you sing, has consumed me for days.  One Day and Love More hopefully follows the first song I heard you say, Don’t Do It. The first track A Crime makes me physically uncomfortable.  The bare bones of every word, phrase, you choose to attack your damned lover is as hard to listen to as it is to turn off.  The tribal folk rock of Peace Signs, the scolding drone in, DsharpG.  Someone got you good.  Has he or she heard these songs?  The sneeze at the end of Save Yourself, left there, perfect.

I wonder what you’re eating, do you like the fall in the midwest?  I wonder who’s going to break your heart tonight?  Is it a her or a he?  I don’t want to know more, this little record you created is beautiful, painful, angry, sexy, smart.  You’ve done your research and the craft to match it.  Epic is a perfect record.

I can’t imagine a more heartbreaking record than this outside of the obvious classics made by established, master, pop-culture, folk singer-songwriters.  Your voice is very reminiscent of canadian songwriter, Kathleen Edwards, Mazzy Star’s, Hope Sandoval and fine I’ll say it, Chan Marshall of Cat Power.  This is a good thing, but you made the record I’ve been waiting for them to make for a long time.  It joins the male ranks of singer-songwriter confessionals like Blood on The Tracks, Tunnel of Love, Grace, and most recently, Bon Iver’s For Emma.  There’s a kindred spirit from Karen Dalton’s In My Own Time that hovers over & through this Americana fused masterpiece.  Completely different records, same emotions, soulful & brutally honest.  I’d go as far as saying, you’ve created a brutal. lyrically polar opposite to Jeff Mangum’s (of Neutral Milk Hotel) abstract & just as painful, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. Like Mangum, I don’t know how you’re going to follow this so I’ll enjoy this little record you made now, and probably forever.

Lastly, I love you, I love this record;  but I don’t want to meet you.  My eighth wife won’t allow me to.  I won’t stalk you, I will imagine I destroyed your heart and you wrote this just for me.  (Whoever your ex-boyfriend is, what an idiot- or a genius?  Think about it, does this exist without that amount of pain?  Hmm.)  No offense, I don’t ever want to be one of your songs, for I am not equal or worthy.
I am still yours forever if you want me, sold, Epic, regardless of whatever you follow with.  That’s eternal love too, and I don’t even have to know you.

Have a good day, Sharon,

Andy Whorehall
aw |  sms

P.S.: Sharon, you have now joined 2 lists I’ve created.  The first one is called:  Who I’d like to hear Justin Vernon work with next. I used to think James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem) and then I heard Vernon recently worked with Kanye— yet to hear that collaboration.  But it’s you, Ms. Van Etten, you.  Justin, meet Sharon, please.  Secondly I have a list called, Who I’d like Neko Case to sing with in a phone book battle:  includes singing to me the white pages, yellow pages, decipher the maps, front to back, sing me these songs, please. Consider one of these lists.  Bye bye.

Sharon Van Etten "Epic"Andy Whorehall

7 comments on "Sharon Van Etten “Epic”"

  1. Dude aw, I never knew that you saw Jeff Buckley. You suck. Sure, I saw Cobain and Elliott Smith before their untimely departures but seriously, BUckley? I hate you- go suck a turd.

    • I have been scarred for sure, nov 94, peoria to chicago and back. 3 of us went on a whim after overplaying the crap out of "Grace" when the fall semester started. some things, sounds, sights, never leave. I've gone as far as searching for that show online…. and then NOT downloading it repeatedly….to keep memory in tact… I don't want to hear it. I did it with the tweedy/bennett show, got tapes from a trader, it's not the same but really triggers some good memories. Both those shows I can replay in my head.

      That next year was the David Gray slot for Radiohead at Metro- I had no idea who he was. This was wayyyyyyyy before whatever hit he had, "Babylon"? Gray has never equalled on record what I saw and heard that night opening for Radiohead… he robbed them of all of their gusto, one man and a guitar. It's unbelievable when that happens.

      I've seen alot of shows where great bands really did suck a turd though. Particular, a Wilco show, around Summerteeth at the Riv… .the crowd was horrible, disrespectful. The Riv seems to encourage this kinda behavior, and the sound is awful.

      I left out some beauties…. many Lounge Ax shows, all great.

      It's hard to move on, seeing newer, younger acts rarely ever compares. It's a double edged memory; exciting & heartbreaking.

  2. Sharon actually did recently collaborate with Justin Vernon recently:

    Justin also covered Love More with members of the National backing him up:

  3. gsmellyfarts on

    First, thanks for bringing her to our attention. Something about the way she sings reminds me of Sia (not sure if it is the voice or delivery). Second, can you please arrange this phonebook singing and make it an episode so we can all enjoy?

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