There are all kinds of reasons to reissue an album, but more often than not, it is aligned with some significant amount of time having passed – 10 or 20 years is typical. But for Sharon Van Etten it was something much deeper and more nuanced. Her debut record (it was) because i was in love came out just shy of a decade ago in 2009, but for many of her fans, it was not their introduction to her work. That came later with her 2010 record epic, which was critically lauded and brought a slew of listeners to Van Etten’s music.
A reissue is a curious thing to begin with, but in the case of Van Etten’s reissuing of (it was) because i was in love, we are given a unique opportunity to look back at her early sound and songwriting within in the context of a fully formed career. And what we find is just how strong she started.
When an artist releases an album we really love and obsess over (as I did with Van Etten’s 2014 release Are We There), we have a tendency to move on from whatever came before it and never revisit it because it seems nothing can compare in that moment. And a reissue asks us not to return to a moment, but to experience something again in a different way. That feels like Van Etten’s approach with (it was) because I was in love, and when you listen to it with that in mind – almost like you’re pretending it’s a new piece of work – it really does affect how you hear it.
This record is stormy and dark, but not timid or lacking in cohesion. “I Wish I Knew” sounds like it would be at home on any of Angel Olsen’s first couple of albums, with Van Etten hitting haunting high notes. Acoustic guitar figures prominently in Van Etten’s sparse arrangements, and her harmonies build up slowly and softly. “For You” and “Keep” are both delicate, minimal beauties that really defined Van Etten’s sound at this time and hint at what was to come.