Reviews

Sharon van Etten
We've Been Going About This All Wrong

(Jagjaguwar)

8/10

After more than a decade on the indie music scene, Sharon Van Etten is an artist who commands respect, and who never disappoints. Her discography of five studio LPs spans from the bare-bones folk love songs of Because I Was In Love to the atmospheric and at-times explosive Remind Me Tomorrow. Each record has its own tone and personality, but what they all have in common is the unshakeable strength of Van Etten’s formidable vocals and her bold, confessional writing. 

2022 sees Van Etten release her sixth record, We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong, without hinting at it by releasing singles. There’s a simple reason for this – the record is designed to be non-hierarchical, to be listened to in full from start to finish, so that a larger story can be told. 

Written during the pandemic and produced by Van Etten at her home studio in California, as wildfires blazed nearby, the record comes from close to the artist’s heart. Displaying once again her knack for writing music that feels both deeply personal and universal, the record explores themes that affect us all at one point or another – love, loss, fear, trauma – this time in the context of a world that feels like it’s falling apart.

Yet there is so much hope amidst the chaos. “It’s not dark, it’s only darkish”, Van Etten decides on the strummed ballad ‘Darkish’, while on ‘Mistakes’ – a bouncy number that feels like a sequel to 2019’s ‘Seventeen’ – she euphorically declares, “Even when I make a mistake / Turns out it’s great”. The record shows off the very best of her versatility, moving seamlessly from moody to heartrending to epic. Like much music written in times of turmoil, We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong serves to articulate feelings we have in common, and how the journey of life can be as beautiful as it is terrifying.

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