Album: Sharon Van Etten – We’ve Been Going About This Wrong review

by Craig Howieson

Album number six from Sharon Van Etten is an exploratory listen – examining her past, present and future selves

Fleeting are the moments that we allow ourselves to live in the present; too often we are tortured by missteps of the past, or preoccupied with the panic of a future that is as bleak as we want to imagine it to be. How can we measure the person we are today when tomorrow throws infinite grains of possibility to the wind?. 

On what is her sixth album, Sharon Van Etten sounds very much grounded in the present on We’ve Been Going About This Wrong, but tendrils stretch into the sun cracked paths that led her here, as well as into the mist obscured alleyways that lie ahead. Family, comradery, loneliness, loss, and a resolute belief in moving forward are all touched upon throughout the record’s ten tracks – and as is a signifier of some of her greatest work, it is the questions she poses and leaves unanswered that resonate the most. From her earliest releases, Van Etten’s music has held a special quality: a confident uncertainty that resonates and uplifts those who themselves feel uncertain or alone in their own surroundings.

And it is not just thematically, but also musically that the record examines all past, present and potential future selves of Van Etten. Presented as a complete body of work with no preceding singles, We’ve Been Going About This Wrong is an exploratory listen, and it is hard to think which of the tracks would make sense on their own. With that in mind, we shall not divulge the exact musical nature of the record, other than to say that if you have ever loved Van Etten’s music, you will find something to love here. And if you have ever felt cushioned by her shared uncertainty at the world around us, that same reassurance prevails.

Perhaps the only true measure we can ever take of ourselves is the person we are – and the life we lead – today, unsullied by memory and speculation. And in that spirit, We’ve Been Going About This Wrong captures Sharon Van Etten exactly as she is – unanswered questions and all. 

Recognising the right paths may not have always been followed, and dead ends are still to be met – we carry on regardless, for ourselves, and for those closest to us.

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