Usually, when an artist is described as "raw", it simply means that they're singing songs about their own experiences with just a guitar; often mistaking "raw" for "stripped back". Sharon Van Etten is one of those artists we can truly call "raw". There's absolutely no cleaning up of broken glass or buffing of the edges to give it all a nice sheen with Van Etten, her songs forcing you to confront those deep, tucked away feelings, to step on the jagged glass, and to stare into your own abyss.

Even her love songs, which her most recent album Are We There has plenty of, are not all white picket fence and 2.5 children, preferring to focus on everything in between all that: the fights, the smaller moments, and the struggles all thrown in to this thing we call "love". In a way, her songs are a form of catharsis both for her and the listener. They feel just raw and open enough to be distinctly Van Etten's, but also with just enough relatability for the every day listener to see themselves in these songs. The tangle and confusion between wants and needs or the good and the bad, the grey areas, are often subjects of her songs, but she doesn't outright untangle this mess for us, just letting us know that it is a mess that generally exists and not something we might be imagining; the notion of a kindred spirit feeling the same things as you itself a form of relief.

You just need to listen to one song to know that she's been through the wringer a few times, almost as though this is therapy as much for her as it is for the listener. Beautiful rhythms clash against one another, a real emotional commotion, as Van Etten pours her soul out. It's this true earnestness that makes her stand out. It's why the American folk rock scene is so enamored with her, Wye Oak, The National, and Beirut being among those who have, in some part, helped her out with her albums. The Sharon Van Etten we see today is a more bolder, more self assured Van Etten, capable of one minute bringing a smile to your face and the next a river of tears flowing down your face.

Check out Mathew Parri Thomas' beautiful photos below, and head here to read our recent interview with Van Etten.

BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko


Lyla Foy

BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko


Sharon Van Etten live

BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko

BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko
BTS: Sharon Van Etten - Koko