Sharon Van Etten, Beaten Down.

If Remind Me Tomorrow, released last year to pandemoniac critical acclaim, marked Sharon Van Etten’s return to music after a protracted absence, then the comparably saturnine Beaten Down comes surprisingly hot on its heels. As was the aforementioned full-length, it has been produced by the incomparable John Congleton, who’s done a typically irreproachable job with its smouldering radiance; but Van Etten’s development as both singer and songwriter is perhaps its starkest feature.

Emerging from a murk of darkened synths and deadened drum machines reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails’ piercing industry, by the time she’s reassuring: “Your big ol’ heart … ain’t beaten down,” the song finds itself in the midst of an unanticipatedly luminescent, airy chorus. Subsequently, ensuing minutes are further embellished by instrumentation more commonly associated with the ’80s’ first gothic quarter (think those more introspective moments from Kaleidoscope, Pornography, and so on) than, for instance, Because I Was In Love, although the American has come quite some way since those lowly beginnings without even vaguely compromising on quality or integrity. And long may her upward trajectory, as both exemplary singer and exceptional songwriter, continue…

Beaten Down is available now via Jagjaguwar.