Sharon Van Etten is a great storyteller and her lyrics are at their best in Are We There, her latest release. The album tells of a pair of lovers who are so consumed by their destructive relationship that they can’t live without one another. Van Etten brilliantly develops this relationship with lines like “you like it when I let you walk over me,” portraying a complicated dynamic in which the beloved takes advantage of the speaker, but only because she “lets” him. Musically, Van Etten has never sounded stronger, and Are We There makes effective use of piano, guitar, organs, and woodwinds. But it’s the conviction of her delivery that really tugs at my guts. In the closing song’s chorus, when she sings “every time the sun comes up, I’m in trouble,” I believe the optimistic tone Van Etten puts forward in the face of destruction and think, fleetingly, that everything might be okay.

-Caroline Cox