Boasting a mere seven songs, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten's sophomore effort hardly lives up to the lofty promise of its name, but where Epic fails to deliver in size, it more than makes up for in sound. Van Etten possesses one of those rare voices that can make even the weakest material soar, so the decision to open the album with the perfectly serviceable, yet ultimately forgettable, solo heartbreak rant “A Crime” makes sense, as what follows is simply electrifying. Backed by a full traditional rock band and bolstered by weepy lap steels and harmoniums, Van Etten's full serpentine croon, which falls somewhere between Kristin Hersh, Neko Case, and Brandi Carlile, addresses the usual subjects of failure and longing, but there’s a strange, dark confidence behind all of the self-examination that makes even the most clichéd confessional singer/songwriter utterance feel dangerous. Of the seven tracks, “Peace Signs” with its sinewy verses and pulsing kick drum that threatens to cut loose into a full-on highway jam at any minute (but doesn’t), the languid, reverb-heavy country-rock sleeper “Save Yourself,” and the Jeff Buckley-esque closer, “Love More,” provide the most immediate rewards, but the remaining four cuts (even “A Crime”) are just as hypnotizing once the buzz kicks in.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger