Are We There is the fourth studio album from Brooklyn based singer songwriter Sharon Van Etten, heartbreaking and hopeful, steeped in romantic desperation wrapped in a beautiful vocal that mixes sultry and despair in equal measure.
It's a confronting album, that is it's strongest point, you are taken to some uncomfortable places. Van Etten opens the door to her heart and soul, no more so than on Your Love Is Killing Me,
Break My Legs so I wont walk to you
Cut my tongue so I can't talk to you
Burn my skin so I can't feel you
Stab my eyes so I can't see you
You like it when I let you walk over me
You tell me that you like it
Your love is killing me
Our Love starts out like some twisted 70's funk with a wah wah guitar before settling into something more dense and layered, it's a song that reveals the hidden agony of a violent relationship, that sense of being trapped with no way out,
You say I'm genuine
I see your backhand again
I'm a sinner I've sinned
We're a half mast flag in the wind
At the bottom of a well
I'm reliving my own hell
Someone throws the ladder down
Still I don't know what I've found
Musically Are We There doesn't play it safe, Van Etten shows a propensity to drape her words in all sorts of musical colours, at her most intense and emotional the music is in parts sparse, but too add that sense of suffocation the music swells and envelops all around it. Tarifa shows a more soulful side with raspy Memphis style horns punctuating the chorus. Taking Chances is the highlights, it's minimalist beginnings a portent to something more grand, a pulsing drum sound opens up the possibilities. Risks and chances, fate and the unexpected, when to take that leap and when to remain in solitude. Are We There grapples with the unexpected element of human emotion, why do we put ourselves in situations where we can't possibly win. Van Etten sums it up on You Know Me Well,
Everyone is crazy with their own life
Lies in existential you ever want to find your way out
Turn into yourself again and reach on out
To become your true self.
Are We There is one of those albums that finds a connection, maybe for some an uncomfortable one, shining a light in those deep recesses. In a similar way to The National, Van Etten isn't afraid to lay it all bare and gain something from the pain and in that exploration she gains a deeper affinity with the listener, not too many albums today achieve that.