Music Hall of Williamsburg
Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten


Fri, February 24, 2012

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

Music Hall of Williamsburg

Brooklyn, NY

$18 advance / $20 day of show

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This event is 18 and over

Sharon Van Etten
Sharon Van Etten
For all the attention that was paid to her 2012 break-through Tramp, Sharon Van Etten
is an artist with a manifest hunger to turn another corner. Writing from free-flowing
emotional honesty and vulnerability creates a bond with the listener that few
contemporary musicians can match. Compelled by a restless spirit, Van Etten is
continuously challenging herself. Now, the result is Are We There, a self-produced
album of exceptional intimacy, sublime generosity and immense breadth.
While most musicians are quite happy to leave the production end of things to someone
else, with Are We There, Van Etten knew it was time to make a record entirely on her
terms. The saying goes “fortune favors the bold” and yet this boldness had to be
tempered. For this, Van Etten found a kindred spirit in veteran music producer Stewart
Lerman whose expertise gave her the freedom to make Are We There the way she
imagined. Originally working together on Boardwalk Empire, they gently moved into
new roles, rallying around the idea of collaborating in Lerman’s studio in New Jersey.
It is clear from Are We There’s opening chords, we are witnessing a new awareness, a
sign of Van Etten in full stride, writing, producing and performing from a place that
seems almost mythical, were it not so touchable and real. Always direct, and never
shying away from even the most personally painful narratives, Van Ettten’s songwriting
continues to evolve. Many of the songs deal with seemingly impossible decisions,
anticipation, and then resolution. She sings of the nature of desire, memory, of being lost,
emptiness, of promises and loyalty, fear and change, of healing and the true self, violence
and sanctuary, waiting, of silence. The artist who speaks in such a voice is urging us to do
something, to take hold and to go deeper.
It's been suggested-by fans, detractors, even by the band's founder-that Shearwater and whatever we call underground/indie/whatever-rock in this part of the century are not an obvious fit. And that's true. So much of what we hear these days (the lousy stuff, anyway) is willfully insular; Jonathan Meiburg's songs, by contrast, have constantly tackled bigger questions and been propelled by massive musical ambitions.

We're in an era in which minimalism and lower-than-low-tech have come in vogue. By contrast, Shearwater's recordings-the epic "Island Arc" trilogy of Palo Santo, Rook and The Golden Archipelago in particular-have been expansive (some might say bombastic) in a fashion like none of their contemporaries. Meiburg-presumably unfamiliar with the adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"-has opted to ditch an approach that paid huge artistic dividends over his last three Matador albums for a record that seems shockingly direct, immediate and intensely personal. He's no stranger to lush, crafted recordings, but this one sounds like no prior Shearwater incarnation. And please, don't mistake that for a suggestion this is anyone's notion of a traditional, singer-songwriter album. "Immaculate" and "Breaking the Yearlings" are inventive and confident in a manner that would humble most new artists, let alone Shearwater's few veteran peers. "Insolence" is (take your pick) an unsparing bit of self-reflection or an evisceration of someone else; either way, the song covers a staggering amount of sonic territory in the space of six minutes plus. No disrespect whatsoever is intended to Meiburg's sometimes-Austin neighbors Spoon when I call "Believing Makes It Easy" a song that would rank amongst that band's finest had they come up with it instead.

Though it's possibly a wild projection to claim a few years of bouncing through various band lineups, record labels and places of residence have led to a radical reboot, I'm a big believer in citing circumstantial evidence and letting the jury figure it out for themselves. Someone's bound to label this Shearwater's transitional album, but to these ears, it sounds like a thrilling artistic rebirth. Just give 'em the fucking Grammy already!

-Gerard Cosloy, Austin, TX (November 2011)

More about Animal Joy:
Animal Joy was produced and recorded by Danny Reisch in Austin, Texas, and mixed by Peter Katis (The National, Interpol, Jonsi, Frightened Rabbit) in Bridgeport, Connecticut; sessions took place through most of 2011. The album was mastered by Greg Calbi in NYC.

Principal players were Jonathan Meiburg (vocals, guitar, and piano), Kimberly Burke (upright and electric bass) and Thor Harris (drums)-all members of Shearwater since 1999-along with guest performers Andy Stack (of Wye Oak) on guitar, keyboard, and saxophone, Scott Brackett on keyboards, Cully Symington on additional drums, Sam Lipman on clarinet, and Elaine Barber on harp. No strings or glockenspiels were touched during the making of this album.
Venue Information:
Music Hall of Williamsburg
66 North 6th St
Brooklyn, NY, 11211