Since the release of her last record Are We There in 2014, Sharon Van Etten has embarked on many new ventures: she began a psychology degree, starred in a Netflix series, wrote a film score and had her first child. Despite all this, she has also made time to cultivate an exciting new sound. Known for her stirring, lovesick ballads with sprawling, poetic lyrics mostly set to rich piano or strumming acoustic guitar, Van Etten’s latest single ‘Comeback Kid’ surprises with screeching synth, startling cymbals and pounding drums. Whilst usually the centre of attention, Van Etten’s raw, earthy vocals now seem to be just one instrument of many; lyrics which once resembled diary entries are replaced by the narrative of many characters in conversation. Rather than building gradually, the track is noisy and repetitive from the beginning with rising shouts of the title line and the command, “Don’t look back!” Though always strong, her vocals also exuded a vulnerability which could even bring the singer herself to tears, as she admitted in an interview with the BBC in 2018. In contrast, Van Etten growls through ‘Comeback Kid’, and the effect is a new sense of power and maturity.
Image: Tristan Loper via Wikimedia Commons