The Language of Stone label tends to be a nu-prog effort but it obviously recognizes quality no matter where it originates and thus signed Sharon van Etten for her powers as a moody stylist in the vein of Neil Young (his Harvest period), Laura Nyro, Leonard Cohen, and other composers who strip things down to their essentials and run with the result. Some cuts here are just van Etten, her voice and guitar, while others boast subtle background ensembles and harmony vocals. All nonetheless zero in on the woman's emotional presence and hazily rangy voice. When she sings, it's all mists and smoky afternoon light, but van Etten possesses the ability to climb the octaves up and down when the intensity factor amps up.
The second cut, Consolation Prize, may be the best ingress, as it beds her in a cloudy field of softly ringing accompanists, though, really, most anywhere one chooses is the right place to dig in. This is lamentive folk with very persuasive powers in neo-Goth, novo-country, and unvarnished chorale. I Fold finds her multi-tracking for a gorgeous tapestry of her own voice weaving in and out with faint keyboards, fingerstyle guitar, and incidentalist percussion gliding alongside.
The lyrics to the songs are as evanescent as the music, mundane and dwelling in the here and now, not what one would call Byronic by any means but more Ghost World-y, angst-ridden, not grandiloquent…and I'm not sure it even matters, as it's Etten's voice that allures, calls to the mind and ear soothingly despite the oft downer sentiments, its tones floating, brimming with memories. And one can literally drown in the timbre, as Because I Was In Love finds its groove immediately and stays there, establishing a tone that never weakens, guiding the listener ever deeper into sirenic depths of reflection and soporific daydreams.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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