Friday, June 13, 2014

Choosing Singles with Sharon Van Etten

Here's a conversation that I had with Dyfrig Williams on Twitter the other day:

Dyfrig's blog, Music Bendigedig, is well worth a look. He goes to way more gigs than me.

We were talking about Are We There, the new album from American rock chanteuse Sharon Van Etten. It's actually grown on me since I tweeted that YouTube link (you'll notice that Meat Loaf is no longer occupying that slot on the right-hand side of the blog), but I still don't think that Taking Chances and Your Love is Killing Me are the highlights.

So what are the highlights, Joel?

Well, Tarifa is certainly one of them - that Twitter conversation wouldn't even have happened if not for my fondness for that track. I love the lilting tempo and the little brass flourishes in the chorus:

But perhaps even better is the closing track, Every Time the Sun Comes Up. It's built upon the immortal boom boom-boom bam drum pattern from Be My Baby, and it flits between doleful verses (in which SVA seems to emphasise every single syllable) and a simple yet strangely anthemic chorus: "Every time the sun comes up, I'm in trouble." This will be a strong contender for Song of the Year come December:

Now, given that there's an official video for Every Time the Sun Comes Up, I suspect that Dyfrig's list of Are We There singles may have been slightly incomplete. But still, that conversation made me think - should the best tracks automatically be released as singles, or should they stay tucked away on the album, a reward for the people who were prepared to dig deeper?

I suppose it depends on why you're releasing a single in the first place. If it's simply supposed to serve as an advert for the album, you don't want to tip your hand too much - movie trailers seldom show the best part of the film, and listeners will only feel let down if the album's best song is the one they already knew.

You could argue that singles and albums have two separate audiences, but if a song is on the radio, the music channels, and the internet, then quite a lot of your album buyers will be buying the album because they heard and enjoyed the single.

For this reason, I'm kind of glad that people like Sharon Van Etten are keeping their best tracks - like Tarifa from Are We There and Ask (see below) from Tramp - away from the airwaves. It gives people like me a leg to stand on when we're thumping our copies of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and insisting that albums are still worth buying.

Have a nice weekend.

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