Artist: Sharon Van Etten Title: Epic Release date: September 21 Label: Ba Da Bing!
If you're relatively unknown as a musical artist, as is Sharon Van Etten, and you name your record Epic, you'd better be damn sure your record doesn't suck. The good news for Van Etten is that her seven-song record has little in common with things that do suck -- like, say, the song of the same name by one of the worst bands this planet has ever birthed, Faith No More.
Van Etten keeps it simple on Epic, letting her fine voice -- throaty, war, filled with pathos -- dominate the proceedings, especially on the Neil Young-esque opening track, "A Crime," a sad, minor-key relationship-gone-sour song in which she sings, "Never let myself love like that again" over a forcefully strummed acoustic guitar.
On "Peace Signs," she sounds like a less-sleepy Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star. She veers away from the conventional singer-songwriter approach with "DsharpG," employing a ghostly accordion and strategically placed hits on a kick drum/tambourine as she intones, "Following blind / Following blind / What if I do?"
To me, Van Etten is a cut above your average indie singer-songwriter, taking some chances with instrumentation and sparse arrangements but remaining accessible enough to keep you listening on this easily digestible record. I'll look forward to what Van Etten does next.
Best song: Album closer "Love More," which combines all the best elements of Van Etten's tack. Rotation: Medium-Heavy Deja vu: Sad times. I'd rather listen to: Charlotte Gainsbourg's IRM. Grade: B+