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Sharon Van Etten

LIVE REVIEW: Roskilde Festival 2019 Day 2, 04.07.2019

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Every Roskilde Festival includes the weather debate. Ideal weather for a festival isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. Clear skies and sunshine quickly give way to sunburn while the dry air leads to the phenomenon known as the “piss cloud” (if you don’t know what we mean, spare your imagination). 

The second day at Roskilde Festival is damp and chilly. We haven’t reached mud pit conditions, but it’s still made us grateful for every set that’s under a tent. Sharon van Etten starts off Thursday for us on the Avalon Stage. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Sharon van Etten, and in that time she’s become a fucking rock star. The band she’s assembled to play her latest album, Remind Me Tomorrow, has her performing more as a vocalist and less as a guitarist (and not at all behind keys). She spends much of the set stalking the stage and channeling Patti Smith energy; she is completely transformed from the indie rocker we saw a few years ago. Also transformed is the reception of“Every Time the Sun Comes Up,” which in the past few years has become her signature song and an out-of-left-field hit that echoes back to her from the audience. There’s also a subtle difference in how Sharon projects herself when she plays solo. Past the midway point in her set, the band clears out and she takes a seat behind her piano. She take several minutes to talk about the state of the world, her desire to be optimistic for the sake of her young son, and to explain the the cover she wants to play is still relevant, despite being written in the 80s. Her soulful rendition of Sinead O’Connor’s “Black Boys on Mopeds” is an early highlight for the festival.

Julien Baker exudes a different kind of confidence, perhaps better described as fortitude. She is alone on stage for much of her set at Pavilion, or accompanied by a violinist. She is also competing with the noise bleed from a Norwegian electronic duo on the Apollo Stage, but seems completely unfazed by it.

Julien is suffering from being in the wrong space. Her guitar is warmly reverberant and delicate. Every time she wants to test the intensity of her vocals, she sings off mic, which remarkably still carries through the audience and over the sub bass from the next stage. At one point, someone tells her to turn up the volume and she says, “I’m just here to deliver the message,” which is southern US speak for “shut the fuck up.” The truth is, she could blow everyone away with volume, with intensity, but she saves it for the outro of her penultimate song, “Turn Out the Lights.” And that moment is incredible swelling of beauty and emotion when it arrives. But the main takeaway from her performance is that we want to see her play again in literally any other setting.

Before we reach the madness of a headline set at Orange Stage it’s always tempting to spend some time in a more intimate setting. Tirzah’s unique brand of minimalistic rnb would seem to fit the bill just right, her 2018 debut Devotion having the soothing touch you crave for after a while in the bustle of a festival. But it was not to be: unknown to us (and presumably whoever booked her for the small confines of Gloria stage) she is a huge draw, the queue to get in stretching around the block even after the concert has begun. So we have to grudgingly tramp back to the damp fields in the heart of Roskilde Festival to await the headliner.

Orange Stage is home turf for Mø, her rightful place. To emphasize this, she begins her set among the audience, standing on the barriers in a long flowing cape that becomes a banner as she runs through the crowd up to the stage. Mixing pop expansiveness with the grounded-ness of her more DIY roots, Mø has spent the last six years building her way up from her festival debut of Roskilde Rising, move up the stages to get here, with nothing more to conquer. Which just means there is all the more reason to party. The high-pitched samples of “Kamikaze” cut right through the sheets of rain, calling the stragglers over to the head of the festival. Before too long she’s already bounded out into the crowd again, leaning back into the front rows with the joyful nonchalance of a private karaoke party with friends.

Pausing for breath in the rain-swept centre of Orange Stage field, Mø recounts her trip to see the Spice Girls reunion. Closeness to the audience is something she takes very literally, and you can sense that much of her energy comes from this empathy for what it feels like to see your favourite pop stars in a huge crowd. It is also a teaser for a reimagined cover of “Say You’ll Be There”, accompanied by her childhood friend Josefine Struckmann Pedersen and Jada, who promises to be the heir apparent of the Danish pop queen. By the end of the set confetti is falling, flames are bursting from below, and Mø can’t help but keep repeating the drop of the very appropriately titled “Final Song”.

After a performance like that, we can’t help but get more excited for the Scandinavian left-field pop godmother, Robyn, the next evening.

Albums of the year 2014

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Swans-To-Be-Kind

Swans – To Be Kind

After thirteen studio albums, Swans have not diluted their power or talent one bit. But somehow, since their rekindling in 2010, they have become more popular. To Be Kind is just as provocative and challenging as Swans’ early material, with half-an-hour-long songs like “Bring the Sun/Touissant Overture” and off-kilter oddities like “A Little God in My Hand”, but the sound and instrumentation has matured, becomings both less distorted and somehow more dissonant. As we witnessed in November, Swans are still a brutally loud and relentless live band, a constant provocation to audience and peers, and much loved because of it. – CC


 møMØ – NoMythologies To Follow

Karen Marie Ørsted is my hero. My braid swinging, ex-punk rocker, stage diving hero. I remember the first time I listened to one of MØ’s tracks, loading up Spotify and finding myself blasting ‘Pilgrim’ and ‘Let The Youth Go Mad’ for hours on end and wondering how one individual could contain quite so much effortless cool. She was the Danish alternative pop princess I’d been waiting for, ready to join a royal court populated by Björk, Kate Bush and Lana Del Rey. I waited for No Mythologies To Follow for over a year, as singles like ‘Glass’ and ‘XXX 88’ trickled out from MØ HQ. I was delighted to find that the debut album did not disappoint, as Ørsted shared something that was exciting, thematic, beautiful and most importantly, sounds fucking fantastic. From the first time I heard it, I knew that No Mythologies… was my album of the year. – HT


WhatIsThisHeartHow To Dress Well – What Is This Heart?

Tom Krell’s third album What Is This Heart touches on lighter subjects than his previous two albums Total Loss (2012) and Love Remains (2010). Not one to shy away from touching personal matters, the album starts off with ‘2 Years On (Shame Dream)’ and leads you softly into a journey that expands an extremely vivid personal dream about his family. ‘Face Again’ the stand out single along with ‘Repeat Pleasure’ work in his signature indie R&B coupled with stunning falsetto which leave you questioning how these tracks aren’t further up the charts. WITH takes a turn with grand orchestral ‘Pour Cyril’ before leading into cute power pop ballads ‘Very Best Friend’ and ‘Precious Love’ proving key changes are making a come back! – TS


 Angel OlsenAngel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

The most immediately striking thing about Angel Olsen is her voice, a voice that could easily croon country hits but instead lopes over scruffy, dampened guitars. Her voice alone should earn her and Burn Your Fire for No Witness a place in hearts and best-of lists, but what really makes Burn Your Fire… so special is that it’s wholly intuitive. Olsen’s second full length album is her first with a full band, and it’s the album her debut hinted she was capable of making. She hasn’t abandoned minimalist solo tracks, but she balances them against full-band arrangements. And it’s not just the range of her voice that’s striking but it’s incredible malleability; that it’s raw yet gentle, that it jumps from disaffected to emotive from one line to another, that it rasps and twangs with equal affect. And while she’s not too proud to pay homage to the ‘90s on “Forgiven/Forgotten” and “High and Wild,” these frazzled moments give way easily to stark folk ballads. The album comes down so slowly that by the time you’ve reached the hushed conclusion of “Windows” there’s a sense of catharsis. Burn Your Fire… doesn’t just leave you feeling satisfied, but completed. – AF


 sharon van ettenSharon Van Etten  – Are We There

Somewhere in Tennessee there is apparently an ex-boyfriend of Sharon Van Etten who, during their relationship, kept telling her that her music was terrible. There is a lesson to be learned here.
“Are We There” is one of those records that grows on you. There is something extremely vulnerable and honest about Sharon Van Etten’s song writing and performance on stage. Her voice has depth which is completed by the unique vocal harmonies with Heather Woods Broderick. As Sharon Van Etten told The New York Times when she released her previous album “Tramp”, she does not really consider them harmonies: “I just hear two notes at once — I just hear two melodies.” – MK


6) East India YouthTotal Strife Forever
7) IceagePlowing Into The Fields Of Love
8) Scott Walker and SunnO)))Soused
9) Tune-yardsNikki Nack
10) The War On DrugsLost In A Dream
11) Future IslandsSingles
12) Sleep Party PeopleFloating
13) FKA TwigsLP1
14) EagullsEagulls
15) St. VincentSt. Vincent
16) Alt-JThis Is All Yours
17) Wild BeastsPresent Tense
18) Mac DeMarcoSalad Days
19) Ice Cream CathedralSudden Anatomy
20) Lana Del ReyUltraviolence
21) Get Your GunThe Worrying Kind
22) SpoonThey Want My Soul
23) WarpaintWarpaint
24) Shiny DarklyLittle Earth
25) BeyoncéBeyoncé

LIVE REVIEW: Sharon Van Etten, Lille Vega, 18.11.2014

in Live Reviews by
Sharon Van Etten

However confessional her music is, Sharon Van Etten isn’t a minimalist singer-songwriter. Her live performance, though uncluttered, isn’t minimalist either. Switching between different guitars and omnichord on each song, she is rarely still for very long, always occupied with tuning or adjusting levels as much as she is with singing. Most of her set is taken from her latest album, this year’s Are We There, with non-album tracks “I Don’t Want to Let You Down” and “Tell Me,” plus an unrecorded Karen Dalton cover from a forth-coming compilation thrown in for good measure.

What is perhaps the best aspect of Van Etten’s live show is that she preserves the vocal harmonies that are so carefully crafted on her albums with the help of her bandmates’ backing vox. Songs like “Break Me,” with its interwoven lyrics, shine through because of it. But because Van Etten is so egalitarian about the harmonies, it isn’t until she is on her own with just her guitar that the true, overwhelming depth of her voice is apparent. On her own, it’s her voice that fills the room, that whispers and warbles and could knock anyone flat with its strength.

Sharon Van Etten

It’s not surprising that Van Etten is a formidable performer, but the way she talks to her audience is. There is a seriousness to her recordings that leads the listener to imagine the delivery with a straight face and maybe a raised eyebrow, whether she’s making reference to a relationship or defecation. But there is an affable goofiness that comes out between songs. The longer she’s on stage, the more rambling her chatter becomes. It’s the increasingly relaxed demeanor that has her talking about which songs her parents like best, giving reviews of local restaurants, and admitting that people call her “ADDSVE.” It’s a different kind of emotion from Van Etten, and it’s endearing. And really, who among us couldn’t use a recommendation for a good Italian restaurant?

Sharon Van Etten

 

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