You wouldn’t necessarily associate the word “wistful” with the name Sharon Van Etten. The singer-songwriter’s 2012 record, Serpents, for which she received critical accolades and more widespread recognition, can only be described as “fiery.” However, the newly shared “Every Time the Sun Comes Up,” the closing track from her new record Are We There? (out May 27th), showcases a rarely explored side of her songwriting.
“Sun” is a languid little closer. The song opens with a muted drum loop, setting up an expectation for something electronic or dynamically downshifted, but then the real, Phil Spector-esque drums kick in behind a layer of burnished guitars. “Every time the sun comes up, I’m in trouble,” Van Etten sings, a sentiment that self-destructive creative types from Leonard Cohen to Lana Del Rey have made art about for decades and more.
It’s the kind of song, like Sia’s “Chandelier” from earlier in the spring, which belies the “drink ‘til you drop” club culture that permeates pop music these days. Yes, raising hell with a bad boy and a bottle of whiskey is all well and good, but as anybody who’s lived it can attest, that situation looks very different in the light of morning than it does in the dark of night. It’s OK, though — that’s what Van Etten seems to be telling us. She infuses the idea of “morning-after” regret with a daybreak freshness, seemingly more bemused by her bad behavior than pained by it. Where some writers have gotten mileage out of the self loathing that sometimes comes with questionable decisions and overindulgence, Van Etten laments her misadventures with a wan smile and a shrug, as if to say, “We’ve all been there, haven’t we?”
Yes, Sharon, we certainly have.