Label: Ba Da Bing Records Release date: 20/09/10 Link: Official Site Buy: Amazon Every now and again, an artist comes along with such a faultless record that you can’t help but sit back and admire. Epic by New Jersey-based folk artist Sharon Van Etten is precisely that; a musical masterpiece created by a woman who, it must be said, still sells her records directly from her website. Right from album opener ‘A Crime’, the listener is under no illusions about the fact that Epic is about heartbreak. Urgently strumming away, Van Etten delivers the opening line ‘To say the things I want to say to you would be a crime, to admit I’m still in love with you after all this time’ in such a powerful, heartfelt way that immediately grabs your attention. ‘Save Yourself’ starts with a country twang that instantly brings Conor Oberst’s latest releases to mind, but this is soon forgotten when Van Etten belts out her lyrics in such a genuine, heartfelt way that you can’t help feeling she’s lived and breathed every word. Outstanding track ‘Don’t Do It’ is achingly beautiful, beginning with slow, jangling guitar and building up with the accompaniment of a subtle rhythm section before exploding when Van Etten cuts loose and lets her voice go it, creating a startlingly powerful and haunting masterpiece that really leaves quite the impression. Sharon Van Etten undoubtedly knows that her voice is her best asset and utilises it to full extent on this record, alternating between Florence Welch-esque power and a lonely, ghost-like moan (most evident on ‘One Day’ and ‘D sharp G’) in the style of Laura Marling or even Thom Yorke. However she also displays a subtle versatility in song arrangement that makes all the difference between Epic being good and great. With a heavy drumbeat and layered vocals, ‘Peace Sign’ is more urgent and angry than the rest, but still with as much passion as elsewhere. Closing track ‘Love More’ continues in this vein, echoing the sentiment of the rest of the album but with the addition of an orchestral arrangement including accordions, violins and organs that slowly brings the record to a fitting end. They must be putting something in the water in this North-Eastern corner of the USA, as the very appropriately titled Epic displays similar levels of passion and honestly to New Jersey’s favourite blues-punk band, The Gaslight Anthem. What Van Etten has made here is a beautiful creation of dare I say it, ‘epic’ proportions (couldn’t resist), which can be repeated over and over again and still sounds just as genuine, haunting and heartbreaking as the first time. Photobucket