Just looking back through my archives, I found something on Sharon Van Etten’s “Because I Was In Love”, a mighty hushed album of folkish singer-songwritery which was produced by Greg Weeks of Espers, and certainly sounded like it was part of Espers’ fairly spectral world.

Just looking back through my archives, I found something on Sharon Van Etten’s “Because I Was In Love”, a mighty hushed album of folkish singer-songwritery which was produced by Greg Weeks of Espers, and certainly sounded like it was part of Espers’ fairly spectral world.



I compared “Because I Was In Love”, specifically, to solo stuff by Espers’ Meg Baird, and it turns out that Baird turns up on the new SVE album, “Epic”, singing backing vocals. The general vibe of this one, though, is quite different: for a start, there’s a line on the sleeve which reads, “Dedicated to Fleetwood Mac. You changed my world.”

“Epic” doesn’t quite go in that direction in an obvious way, but it’s certainly a bolder, louder, poppier record, a swift collection of seven very good songs written and delivered with a palpable focus and confidence. According to the ever-reliable press notes, the last of these songs, “Love More”, has been covered by some hook-up between Bon Iver and The National, and there’s something about collaborations with The Antlers and so on which seems to place Van Etten as a part of grown-up Brooklyn contemporary indie.

“Epic” doesn’t much sound like that, though, perhaps fortunately. In fact, I keep thinking of early ‘90s American indie-rock when I play it, though I’m not always sure what, specifically, Van Etten’s elegantly crafted songs and strong but unshowy voice remind me of. Maybe it’s Kristin Hersh, circa “Hips And Makers”, on the opening “A Crime”? Or possibly Madder Rose. There’s a terrific song here called “Save Yourself”, a heavy-lidded but purposeful country-rock roller wherein Van Etten’s vocals are tracked by Meg Baird and a couple of other singers, Cat Martino and She Keeps BeesJessica Larrabee. It’s one of those songs that seems stylistically if not melodically familiar, yet hard to place precisely.

“Epic”’s other standout is equally tricky to place, though there’s definitely something of the Cocteau Twins in the precious, windswept atmospherics of “Don’t Do It” and the way the vocals warble and soar. There’s a linear drive rarely found in the Cocteaus, though, which reminds me of the first, good Martha Wainwright record.

Funny, though, how sometimes you can usefully fail to spot the most glaring comparisons. As “Don’t Do It” has just been playing, virtually everyone else in the office has, in some cases independently, pointed out how much it sounds The Cranberries and “Linger”. They’re right: how can I make this look good, exactly?