sharon van etten released one of our favorite albums of 2014 and she shows no signs of slowing down in 2015. last week van etten premiered a new song, “i don’t want to let you down,” ostensibly culled from the same recording sessions as are we there. the new single prefaces an upcoming 7″ and ep, out later this year via jagjaguwar, both of which will highlight the song. you can stream the gorgeously chilled-out “i don’t want to let you down” below.
the end of our year-end best-of week is finally upon us, and we’ve saved the best for last: ten full-length albums of 2014 that best represent the musical convictions of dimestore saints. in many cases, we’ve beaten these albums to death with accolades, so this list will be strictly visual. as usual, the link embedded in the artist and album title will lead to a stream of said album, while clicking through each photo will lead to a review that accurately conveys our feelings. by and large, the reviews will come from this site, but a couple will be pulled from other sites and writers that we admire. cool? cool.
since their inception in 2006, she keeps bees has adhered to a simple but strict instrumentation: jessica larrabee plays guitar and sings while andy laplant plays drums. on their first three albums, there wasn’t any need to deviate from this structure. larrabee is an incredibly capable guitarist, just as adept at drawing emotions from an acoustic, finger-picked line as she is at punishing chords on an electric, and her soothing alto timbre is an instrument of equal prominence and significance. laplant learned how to play drums under larrabee’s tutelage, adding the rudimentary skill to his production and engineering duties. their songs were short, often unassumingly poignant (see “wear red” from 2008’s nest), and it was a formula that worked exceptionally well for the washington, d.c. duo. but formulas run the risk of becoming redundant, something larrabee and laplant evidently realized; their newest album, eight houses, is the most timbrally rich and explorative journey the duo has ever undertaken.
the piano that creeps in midway through album-opener “feather lighter” is the first red-flag indicator of the duo thickening their sound, but the song feels especially refined from its first note, with crystal clear production and a slow vibrato on larrabee’s guitar to increase its depth. other flourishes pop up throughout eight houses, like the slow,ascending horn lines on “owl” and the doubled, fluttering guitar work on “wasichu.” do all of these additives suddenly make she keeps bees a markedly better band? not necessarily. but they absolutely do enhance the album’s listening experience and prove that the duo is by no means stubbornly set in their minimalistic ways.
sharon van etten’s cosign of she keeps bees and her guest appearances on eight houses certainly bolstered the amount of buzz generated for this album, but her presence doesn’t seem to compromise or shift the duo’s musical direction. seething, gritty blues-based songs like “both sides” and “raven” still exist in prominence, with larrabee effortlessly exchanging guitar riffs between two different personas and laplant pounding his kit with more fervor and confidence than previously displayed. what does seem to have changed is the length of the band’s songs (roughly three minutes on average as opposed to two), and, in turn, their conception of songwriting and approach to structure. ideas feel more fully formed and resolved, and eight houses finds larrabee noticeably stepping out of her comfort zone to perform two successive, poignant cuts, “burning bowl” and “radiance,” on piano instead of guitar.
despite subtle shifts in instrumentation and new, notable layers in many of their songs, she keeps bees largely stays true to their original premise. it’s a simple one that retains a sense of timelessness in an ever-changing climate, and its additives do nothing but enhance and advance its potential. with eight houses, she keeps bees has notched another victory in their belt, setting the stage for more promising things to come.
sharon van etten’s upcoming album are we there is a highly anticipated release over here at dimestore saints. initially bolstered by the excellent “taking chances,” the record provides additional support with “every time the sun comes up,” its final track. van etten’s vocal melody is slightly jarring throughout the verses, perfectly complementing its mournful timbre, but the refrains always offer some form of resolution and security. stream “every time the sun comes up” below, courtesy of jagjaguwar’s soundcloud page.
sharon van etten is set to return with her fourth studio album, are we there, on may 27th via jagjaguwar records. following up an effort as monumental as 2012’s tramp is no easy feat, but van etten seems poised to repeat with “taking chances,” an excellent new single that flexes a budding electronic muscle along with meaty electric guitars and her signature harmonies. take a listen below, via jagjaguwar’s soundcloud page.