Release Date: Feb 7, 2012
Record label: Jagjaguwar
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
When Sharon Van Etten sings, "You're the reason why I'll move to the city or why I'll need to leave," you want to gas up the car and help her pack. Her last album, Epic, was a downer-folk gem; here, she and her double- tracked voice sound bigger, thanks partly to help from dudes in Beirut and the National. Tramp plays like a female version of Beck's Sea Change, setting spacey guitar hum, tidal rhythms and pass-the-Xanax melodies against lyrics about silent love and bad timing.
Unless you’re closely attuned to the community of emotionally literate New York musicians who ride their hearts into battle, you might not have heard of [a]Sharon Van Etten[/a]. The New Jersey-born artist has sung with [a]The Antlers[/a] and [a]The National[/a], and released her first record, ‘Because I Was In Love’, in 2009. Her second, ‘Epic’, arrived in 2010.
Sharon Van Etten’s 2010 album Epic was an understated masterpiece, with the Brooklynite wrangling mighty emotion from the most spartan of ingredients. It saw her nominated for DiS’ album of the year and garner a raft of high-profile admirers, including the likes of Bon Iver and The National. Yet with her career blossoming, the opposite was true of her personal life.
Sharon Van EttenTramp[Jagjaguwar; 2012]By Rob Hakimian; February 10, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetMy introduction to Sharon Van Etten – and I’m sure I’m not the only one who found her this way – was through The Antlers’ Hospice. I just had to know whose haunting voice that was singing at the end of “Thirteen,” and so I discovered her debut album, Because I Was In Love, a collection of songs full of the heartbreaking vulnerability that her Hospice guest spot had promised. Next came Epic, which showed Van Etten gaining a lot of confidence both in her songwriting and herself as a person, but that inner turmoil was still evident all over the album, particularly on the unassailable “Love More.
“I am alone in this room with you,” sings bruised Brooklyn angel Sharon Van Etten on Tramp, her breakout third album. Her words float in a slow-motion mist above barely-there acoustics and underwater ambience: a representative moment for the album as a whole. For most of these 47 minutes, Van Etten’s right there with you—whispering her tortured lullabies into your ear in the most intimate way possible.
Last May, early May, it was an exceptionally cold afternoon in Brooklyn, New York where I've been living for a while now, and where I was attempting to enjoy the company of my kiwi girlfriend's old friends from west Auckland – two massively built rugby players and one already-20-year-old-with-gray-hair artist of sorts – attempting because I couldn't think of anything worthwhile to talk to them about, (sports? Baseball? The Yankees?) and as a result, I ended up saying nothing to them – not a word – despite being in their company for a collective total of more than twenty four hours. On this exceptionally cold afternoon, we five were dining in the backyard of a Mexican restaurant called Castro's, drinking Coronas and eating burritos, tacos and quesadillas. I remember gazing in horror at the goosebumps on my triceps.
Review Summary: A tense and sprawling record that delivers one emotional gut punch after another.Sharon Van Etten seems to carry the weight of the world squarely on her shoulders. The emerging singer/songwriter laments loss throughout her third studio album, simply titled Tramp, and displays her woes on a stark canvas consisting primarily of her own sorrow. The concept of the album is built around relationships, and even though this particular theme has been abused by just about any singer/songwriter with a guitar and feelings, Van Etten delivers a strikingly original piece that actually manages to cause the listener’s heart to ache with hers.
It takes some guts for a woman to name an album Tramp, particularly when that album is a nuanced exploration of the workings of the heart. Brooklyn-based Sharon Van Etten, then, deals not in come hithers but in toxic love and its radioactive half-lives. The saturated swoop of Tramp's rocking first single, "Serpents", simultaneously recalls Liz Phair, Throwing Muses and Neko Case, while "We Are Fine" supplies a spell to calm panic attacks.
Sharon Van Etten's first proper album, Because I Was in Love, was nudged out into the world in 2009 despite the best efforts of a college boyfriend in Tennessee who had told her she was shit, hid her guitar, and shoved her back home to New Jersey. That album's tracks, and those of the home recordings she also released that year, were sparse, Van Etten's voice sometimes barely above a murmur, as if she were trying to figure out how to make music at the lowest functional volume. Her next record, 2010's Epic, was almost more of an EP-- just seven songs-- but it was a leap forward in sound and spirit.
To be Brooklyn singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten is to be a soldier without an army in the war zone that is pop music. She’s far too dark and moody to be compared to poppier acts like Ingrid Michaelson or Ellie Goulding, and she’s not quite eccentric enough to be lumped in with St. Vincent or tUnE-yArDs. Van Etten’s place, it would seem, is to forge her own career of relatable, yet artistically progressive folk-rock.
As the digital world gives us more and more opportunities to interact from afar—i.e. not really interact—with each other, the singer-songwriter feels more and more like an alien being. With no project name to hide behind, and often digging into personal, sometimes uncomfortably confessional stories, the world of the singer-songwriter has always been difficult and yes, sometimes cloying.
With each new release, Sharon Van Etten comes into sharper focus. It’s a quality shared by her cover art: her 2009 debut Because I Was In Love featured a hand-drawn woman looking for a hand up; 2010’s Epic portrayed Van Etten as upright but worn, melting into a hundred directions at once. Now comes Tramp, her debut for Jagjaguwar, a record that shows Van Etten still masked in shadows, but this time she’s confidently staring back.
When Sharon Van Etten issued the ironically titled seven-song Epic in 2009, it stood in stark contrast to her 2007 debut, Because I Was in Love. On the latter record, she employed a full-on rock band, her songwriting gained a more defined precision, and her singing voice -- even at its most vulnerable -- seemed to speak with a confidence that didn't seem to need any frame of reference other than its own. Tramp is titled for the period of post-relationship uncertainty and the period of homelessness Van Etten experienced during its 14-month recording process.
There’s so much I want to say to Sharon Van Etten while I’m listening to Tramp, her latest album. Most of it’s condescending, but, trust me, it comes from a good place, like: Hey, Sharon, you need to ditch that no-good man. You know, they now have good medicine for panic attacks. Keep away from the studio — and Aaron Dessner — and just stick to your guitar.
SHARON VAN ETTEN plays Lee’s Palace on February 21. See listing. Rating: NNN Sharon Van Etten's third album, produced by the National's Aaron Dessner, should move her closer to being recognized as a great and unique songwriter, though the album never quite takes off the way many of us hoped. That's the thing about the Brooklyn indie folk musician: you find yourself rooting for her, possibly because of the aching sadness - mournfulness might be a better word - in her soulful voice and the vulnerability of her lyrics, which continue to focus on failed relationships.
It's not uncommon for one song to completely turn around the fortunes of a band or artist. It could be a new group's first demo, overheard by someone who knows someone, then picked up to soundtrack a car advert or a key scene in a film. Or it could be a track buried deep in the back half of the fourth album by a struggling singer who knows their label won't accept three-star reviews as a substitute for record sales much longer.
Brooklyn singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten is still playing the same simple chords. She’s still singing in beautiful, lilting harmonies the panic and excitement of falling in and out of love. But what sets her third album, Tramp (Jagjaguwar), apart from the tight though interchangeable tracks of Epic and the polite introductory curtsy of Because I Was In Love is confidence.
Album three broadens her already sublime sound while exhibiting greater confidence. James Skinner 2012 In 2010 Sharon Van Etten closed her second album with a beautiful drone of a song entitled Love More. Reflecting on a relationship in both tender and rueful terms, it is a striking, haunting thing that wound up the subject of a cover version by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Aaron Dessner of The National.
The wounds that wrote 2010's Epic haven't closed for Sharon Van Etten. Breakups, one in Tennessee that spurred 2009's Because I Was in Love and another in New York just before Epic, are still central to the Brooklynite's intensely personal songwriting, so much so that certain songs on third album Tramp ("Give Out," "In Line") sound like holdovers from the Epic sessions. Nevertheless, there's a strength in Tramp that suggests Van Etten's ready to step out into the sun, be it in the quaint "We Are Fine" or follow-up "Magic Chords," with its processional snare and playfully confident melodies.
With the release of ‘Tramp’, Sharon Van Etten brings to our palette a diverse set of characters, introducing us to a femme fatale and then taking us home to lie in the bed of a sleepyheaded chickadee. Van Etten has been nesting in the recent scene, not only by letting us hear her unique voice ring once again on this second album, but by teaming up with the likes of Matt Barrick, Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman), Zach Condon, Jenn Wasner, Julianna Barwick, and Aaron Dessner. Perhaps this powerful collaboration led to the great mix of acoustics with the occasional rocky punch (listen: ‘Magic Chords’), showcasing Van Etten’s range of musical abilities.