Song of the Day: Sharon Van Etten – Just Like Blood

photo by Laura Crosta

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Just Like Blood” by Sharon Van Etten from the 2015 I Don’t Want to Let You Down EP on Jagjaguwar.

Sharon Van Etten – Just Like Blood (MP3)

When Sharon Van Etten emerged in the early 2010s, her wounded laments gradually turned to triumphant declarations as she reveled herself to be one of the premier songwriters of the early part of the decade. Van Etten’s earliest musical endeavors date back to her role in her high school choir and her earliest bedroom songwriting excursions. When she moved to Tennessee for college, Van Etten stopped performing publicly for many years, primarily due to an abusive relationship with a man who belittled her musical abilities, before moving back to New Jersey to live with her parents. Giving Kyp Malone of TV On The Radio a CD with her songs after a gig reignited Van Etten’s musical pursuits and before long, she was touring and prepping new releases. From 2009 onward, Van Etten released four albums of increasing critical acclaim and commercial success, most recently with 2014’s masterful Are We There. (Read our review here.)

Primarily consisting of leftover tracks from the Are We There sessions, the I Don’t Want To Let You Down EP saw release earlier this year, and “Just Like Blood” shows that even Van Etten’s leftover tracks pack the same emotional punch as her album tracks. Not unlike “Magic Chords” or “Tarifa”, “Just Like Blood” finds its momentum by attaching itself to a steady rhythm, allowing Van Etten to arrange melodic instrumental parts and her trademark harmonies in complimentary fashion. But, as usual, rising above all of the winding sonic turmoil are her lyrics, particularly the pointed chorus couplet, “You shut me off, just like a gun/Then you run, just like blood”. Van Etten’s ability to strip the soul bare with her words and voice is uncanny, and her increasing refinement of her greatest strength is immediately apparent on the pained, swelling “Just Like Blood”.

Sharon Van Etten is currently taking time off the road after wrapping up touring behind Are We There, but keep up with her at her Facebook and website for any music or tour announcements. Below, watch Sharon play the Are We There standout “Break Me” live on KEXP last year.

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