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Sharon Van Etten: Tiny Desk Concert

When Sharon Van Etten made her Tiny Desk debut back in the fall of 2010, her voice exuded fragile, gentle grace. Performing songs from that year's Epic, she huddled around a single acoustic guitar with backup singer Cat Martino to perform a set of tender and evocative folk-pop songs.

Cut to nearly a decade later. One of only a handful of artists to get a repeat headlining engagement at the Tiny Desk, Van Etten has spent the last few years purging her bucket list: She's become an actress (appearing as a guest star on The OA), released a string of increasingly aggressive albums (the latest of which is this year's synth-driven Remind Me Tomorrow), toured the world, performed on Twin Peaks, written music for films, become a mom, gone back to school and popped up in collaborations with everyone from Land of Talk to Jeff Goldblum.

So it's only natural that this Tiny Desk concert feels different; you can hear it before Van Etten and her band even show up onscreen. Its pace set by the ticking beat of a drum machine, "Comeback Kid" is in full bloom here, with a swaying arrangement that fills the room before Van Etten opens her mouth. Backed by a full band — including frequent Van Etten collaborator Heather Woods Broderick, who played the Tiny Desk as a member of Horse Feathers way back in 2009 — the singer performs with considerable intensity here, seething through "You Shadow" before punctuating the set-closing "Seventeen" with a scream that slashes through the office air.

SET LIST

  • "Comeback Kid"
  • "You Shadow"
  • "Seventeen"
  • MUSICIANS

    Sharon Van Etten: vocals, guitar; Heather Woods Broderick: keys, vocals; Jorge Balbi: drum machine; Devin Hoff: bass; Charley Damski: keys, vocals

    CREDITS

    Producers: Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, CJ Riculan, Niki Walker; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Executive Producer: Lauren Onkey; VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann; Photo: Mhari Shaw/NPR

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)