D é N O U E M E N T S

First Listen: Sharon Van Etten’s Tramp

Tramp, in its literary sense, is a homeless person. One would know the reason why Sharon Van Etten third effort is titled as such if he has read about how she went bedspacing friend after friend after being on the road for quite sometime. There is something liberating about carrying everything you need with you and not having a shoebox that grows into a full-on luggage as years pass by. This fleeting quality, reflective of Van Etten’s reality, looms all over Tramp— the record.

Looking at Because I Was In Love and Epic, Van Etten has made it clear that she means to make music representative of her experiences. The phrase ‘abusive relationship’ has fairly been tossed around in describing her songs, all pre-Tramp. This haunting presence of that story while living in Tennessee might have escaped Van Etten in making Tramp, with the help of the Dressners of The National and indie leads like Zach Condon and Juliana Barwick but the force that propels her first two records still linger in its second half.

“Serpents” by Sharon Van Etten

Starting strong with “Warsaw,” Van Etten signals a shift sounding less sparse and reflective with raunchier, rotating guitars. More of this new found standing is in “Give Out” where she finds answers to her own questions, playing with words and memories. “It’s not because I always hold on, it might be I always hold out,” she confesses in the track. The earlier released “Serpents” turned out to be the loudest stomper backed up by capacious arrangements; Van Etten sounds the most confident before falling into the realm she graces so well. “Kevin’s” “In Line” and “All I Can” are laid with such intuition that the tracks seamlessly flow into each if not punctuated by “Leonard,” a wordy confession brazened by double-tracked vocals and lustrous melody,‘Try. I wanted to try for you, wanted to die for you… I loved you, well,’ she soars.

Her duet with Zach Condon of Beirut works like an assurance of how she is now. Though Condon is, as usual, undeniably present in “We Are Fine,” Van Etten carries on without intimidation and fear. The last few tracks of Tramp captures the woman behind the confessionals sets she served earlier in her career. Production wise bigger and eminent of skilled musicianship, Van Etten is betrayed by her words and her voice, which are like blots of ink on parchment paper— tracing out a face that makes the work more personal and affecting. “It’s not that I don’t cry, it’s that I have to hide,” she declares in “Ask.”

Flexing a muscle this time, Tramp can be Sharon Van Etten’s greenlight to big arena concerts and headlining tours. But the quaint, soulfulness of the record, like her other records, are all breathing from Van Etten’s voice and experiences that gradually picks up pace in each release, beating a stronger pulse and farther tracks. It is unavoidable by now to isolate her personal from her music but instead of sounding like a limping broken soul, Tramp yields some kind of power. Growth, one may call it, or can just be a shy kind of brilliance.


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