Sharon Van Etten

Are We There (Jagjaguwar)

One of America's most adept heart-stompers comes roaring back after the success of 2012's Tramp with an even bigger, braver artistic achievement in Are We There (that lack of punctuation is no accident). Presented as 11 pieces of a doomed relationship Van Etten can't sort out for the life of her---look at the titles: "I Love You But I'm Lost," "Your Love is Killing Me," "Nothing Will Change"---the benefit is all ours as she sings darkly, always in clear, perfect harmony with herself, about her lowest lows. (It is a notable feat for Sharon Van Etten to out-sad herself.) The arrangements are more confident, driving and dynamic than on Tramp---a very good record in its own right---punctured by a pair of piano ballads that will take your heart from your hands. A fucking triumph.

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