Sharon Van Etten: Getting on the bandwagon like a Tramp.

I’ve got a soft spot for Sharon Van Etten. I’m a bit of a fan of these back seat rocker chicks with their soul pumping guitars and their independence. Sharon adds to this a kick ass voice and the kind of folk-sy thing I like (which is hard to find for me) which is true to the 60’s chic of the folk thing.

Like everyone, I liked Because I was in love with its purity and strength and that 60s chic thing. Like everyone, I liked Epic, but got a little worried that we might have lost that alone alone alone feel of the timber of her beautiful voice. With Tramp she’s brought the best of both elements together in a lovely act of maturity that gives listeners like myself faith in her own connection to herself.

The press release for Tramp says the following:

The shimmering sound of Tramp both defies and illuminates the unsteadiness of a life in flux. Throughout the 14 months of scattered recording sessions, Van Etten was without a home — crashing with friends and storing her possessions between varied locations.

I have a track list here:


01. “Warsaw”
02. “Give Out”
03. “Serpents”
04. “Kevin’s
05. “Leonard
06. “In Line”
07. “All I Can”
08. “We Are Fine”
09. “Magic Chords”
10. “Ask”
11. “I’m Wrong”
12. “Joke or a Lie”

But I can’t find lyrics listed just yet. We’ll have them with the albums release. I’ve listened to the album and for the most part it’s the same lyrical beauty in her songs that are so appealing. Lamenting the faithlessness of men, the destructive relationships that make her doubt herself and others, and the difficultly of committing to love when it undermines every other aspect of your life. I can’t get a complete grasp of the lyrics at this point, but for the most part her lamentations are the same, but there is something uplifting about the music and that voice that somehow accept this as part of loves lamentations but not as the only possibility. Standout in this regard is track #5 Leonard that swoops and soars so majestically the sadness and the bitters become the air beneath the wings of joy. The song gave me goosebumps. She sings the word ‘well’ in tones upon tones rolling over again and back on itself, crying out she’s returning and she loves you.

The brilliant debut single of the album, ‘Serpents’ (track #3) has the same positive energy despite her recalling the images of her lost lover over and over in serpents in her mind. The darkness of the album glistens with its veins of gold, preventing it from the dark droning drudgery you might expect if you read the lyrics stand alone.

It’s important to recognise that Van Etten worked with The Nationals Aaron Dessner (another group I’m keen on) and although he’s kept out of her head there is a shine on the production that he has brought – a certain kind of sophistication. Others have collaborated as well:  the likes of Zach Condon, Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak, Matt Barrick of the Walkmen, Doveman, and Julianna Barwick.

Here is a great review on MoviesandSongs365 that says it all.

The Dusted Review by Jennifer Kelly says this better than I have:

Van Etten worked with The National’s Aaron Dessner to record Tramp, and while there is nothing especially National-ish about it (except maybe the martial snare beat in “Serpents”), he does help her bring together disparate sounds into clear, cohesive arrangements. There are a lot of guests on this album — most of The National, Julianna Barwick, Matt Barrick from the Walkmen, Thomas Bartlett and Zach Condon, to name a few — but they never overwhelm Van Etten or push her into the background. In fact, only Condon, who duets with Van Etten in “We Are Fine” and “Magic Chords,” is immediately evident. The rest make fine, interesting contributions — I like Barwick’s earthy vocal support a lot in “Kevin’s” as well as Rob Moose’s delicate mandolin in “Leonard” — but this is Van Etten’s show, all the way through.

Serpent is the perfect place to have us start – it’s the most accessible song being the densest and possible with the most thrill appeal. However, there is so much beauty on this album, it’s not like one song stands out above the others. Songs like ‘Kevin’ are sparse but liltingly lovely. I loved ‘All I can’ that rises and rises into a crescendo of hope against the ravages of love. Her voice rolls around, humming over slackened snares deliciously in an almost jazz-infused folk style in ‘Magic’; She has a sexy edge to the lilt here and a relaxed connection with the tune that inevitably invites the male voice of Zach Condon coming in to nuzzle at her neck.

This is a gorgeous third effort from this talented musician.  The album brings the pleasures from the first two nicely together so we can be sure nothing is forgot, while nursing a sophistication that assures us there is more to come.