Sharon Van Etten: Tramp


Sharon Van Etten
(Jagjaguwar Records)

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Since the release of 2008’s Because I Was in Love, Sharon Van Etten’s career has gone from strength to strength. From living in New Jersey and gigging around New York City, she’s found herself working with and being covered by top acts like The National, Bon Iver, and Beirut.

After hearing The National and Justin Vernon’s cover of her song “Love More,” Van Etten contacted Aaron Dessner, a member of the former act. With Dessner’s garage studio as the headquarters for Van Etten’s next body of work, the two collaborated to create Tramp, a beautiful record that is much more confident than its soft-spoken predecessors. After the brevity of 2010’s epic, coming in around half an hour, it’s a blessing to get so much more from Van Etten so soon.

Van Etten has shrugged the “folk” label to come into her own as an amorphous, talented singer/songwriter.  Tracks like “Warsaw” and “Serpents” are rockers that take a page from Eisley, while “Magic Chords” has the smoothness of a jazz lounge tune. Swirling instrumentation on “I’m Wrong” complements the hypnotic nature of Van Etten’s voice.

Indeed, much of the power of Tramp lies in the singer’s voice. We feel her sadness or her hope depending on the octave, and songs like “In Line” may contain much repetition, but do not suffer because her tones can convey so much depending on delivery.  Guest turns from Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National, Matt Barrick of The Walkmen, Doveman, Zach Condon of Beirut, Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak, and Julianna Barwick make Tramp a must-buy for 2012.

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