Words by Keith Hadad

The EP is an interesting format to release. As we all know, they’re longer than the typical single but shorter than the average album, yet if they’re done right, they can be concentrated greatness that utilizes every single second of running time. Sharon Van Etten certainly is guilty of this with her new EP, I Don’t Want to Let You Down. She makes every note, every moment on this release absolutely count by pushing a double LP’s worth of emotion, creativity and musical prowess into her tight 22 minute EP.

As a whole, I Don’t Want to Let You Down can freeze a room still with the strength and dexterity of Van Etten’s multifaceted vocals and her gorgeously melancholic melodies. Each song here is elaborately produced with a living ecosystem of sounds that includes cold woodwinds, somber strings and stark piano, to name a few. At times these sounds coupled with occasional mellow electronic flourishes (especially on “Pay My Debts”) bring to mind Air (circa-Virgin Suicides), Marissa Nadler and Damon & Naomi.

One of the many strengths on this release are the lyrics. Van Etten paints many close and personal scenes of reflection, regret and complicated heartbreak. The way she sings these pained, introspective lines with her nuance-filled voice lets you know that these lyrics run deep within her soul. For example, in “I Always Fall Apart,” she sings “you turn me into a museum you kept me from the growing weeds/when all you wanted was the best from me” in a voice that is so trusting and so honest, it feels like she’s baring a secret that only the listener can hear.

Even though the entire EP runs at a slow to trotting pace, the songs here are so pleasingly catchy and dreamy, it’s quite addictive. It may prove to be impossible to not replay it several times in one sitting. From ethereal to achingly stark, Van Etten’s latest will arrest your heart and yank on your ear and never let go.

Sharon Van Etten
‘I Don’t Want to Let You Down’
© June 9th, 2015



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