Sharon Van Etten – Tramp


Artist: Sharon Van Etten
Title: Tramp
Record Label: Jagjaguwar
Rating: 8.7

Brooklyn based indie folk artist Sharon Van Etten is due to release her third album entitled Tramp. Produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner, and recorded in his studio over several months the album features guest appearances from The National members Aaron Dessner and Bryce Dessner, Matt Barrick of The Walkmen, Beirut’s Zach Condon and Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak.

Since releasing her first album, Van Etten has really earned her indie credibility: she appeared in The Antlers’ album Hospice, where she performed vocals on the track “Thirteen”. She has also contributed backing vocals to The National’s “Think You Can Wait” from the soundtrack to the film Win Win in 2011. And it’s apparent why, her voice in clear and arresting. Her voice commands attention whilst still wavering enough to appear vulnerable.

Emotions shine through in the fairly low key folk influenced songs in Tramp. “Give Out” is a top track, the chorus “You’re the reason why I’ll move to the city” is catchy and melodic. Drum beats lead into “Serpents” a song about memories and dreams in which Van Etten sings “serpents in my mind…everything changes in time, you’ll stay frozen in time…everything changes in time, I hope he changes this time”.

“Kevin’s” is a full of calming smooth vocals and slow percussion and seems to be another reflection on relationships, as is “Leonard” – “There he goes, he finally closed the door, I close the lock feeling more confused than before”. The songs aren’t the usual sob stories, instead Van Etten seems to tell stories with strength and insight. This is what sets Van Etten apart from her contemporaries.

“All I Can” is an anthem for those who have loved and lost; she sings “we all mistakes” louder and louder before belting “the memory of you, the love over due, to carry a face, I cannot re-trace”. Another affirmative song follows “We Are Fine” includes the instantly recognizable vocals of Zach Condon (Beirut), they chime together “we’re alright” repeatedly, and you can’t help but believe them. And following the various ups and downs portrayed in her songs, Tramp ends with “Joke or a Lie” a heart wrenching song in which Van Etten is at her most raw and exposed, simply beautiful.

Sharon Van Etten is due to tour North America beginning this February in Philadelphia and she will be playing Vancouver at The Biltmore Cabaret March 24th 2012.

Reviewed by Heather Welsh.

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