Sharon Van Etten
Tramp


4.0
excellent

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
February 10th, 2012 | 48 replies | 8,088 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

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. Accented by moments of utterly breathtaking musical inspiration, Tramp captures an artist at her most vulnerable – drenched in melancholy, yet never begging for compassion.

One of the most realistic comparisons that seem to be floating around are those that associate Tramp with The National’s High Violet, because both records possess a softer, more patient mentality than artists who rush to premature climaxes and attempt to sensationalize their sound. This is a record that, in all of its apparent misery, is completely comfortable where it is. The intermittent thrashing accompanying the psychedelic-leaning opener ‘Warsaw’ is neither grating nor entirely at harmony with the other instrumentation, giving listeners an accurate preview of the latent discontent that struggles to break loose for extended portions of the album. The spaced out unraveling of tracks like ‘Kevin’s’ and ‘We Are Fine’ constitute the majority of Tramp, relying on Van Etten’s longing vocals to dictate both the mood and tempo of the album. There are moments where tensions erupt, and although they are few and far between, the build up makes them well worth the wait. The no-frills rocker ‘Serpent’ is the first such encounter, exuding angst through gritted teeth while carefully avoiding anger. Then there is ‘Leonard’, which is less of an eruption and more of a slow, controlled release. The slight upturn in Van Etten’s aura, combined with a deceptively complex interplay between pianos and drums, shows Tramp in a new light that is rather abruptly snuffed out when the wistful drawl of ‘In Line’ commences. From front to back, this is an experience that lives on ebb and flow – and if anyone ever got it right, it was probably Sharon Van Etten on this very record.

The lyrics are also of keen interest. No emotionally overwrought album has the desired impact without memorable quotations to accompany them, whether they are sensible, haunting, or downright quirky. In Van Etten’s case, her lyrics seem to be far off in some dream – swinging and swaying with the rocking momentum of Tramp – yet firmly implanted in the harshness of reality. “There he goes, he finally closed the door” is a line that hits particularly hard, capturing the finality of the realization that, throughout all of the trials and hardships, the relationship has actually ended. It is something we have all experienced before, and even though Van Etten never does anything resembling a plea for sympathy, she will most assuredly get it anyway. There is also the bluntness of her ending to ‘Leonard’, in which she proclaims, “I am bad at loving you”, a simple line that is absolutely packed with meaning. By the time Tramp reaches its final song, Sharon sounds exhausted, downtrodden…defeated. “My hands are getting tired” sums up her state rather succinctly, while cautiously leaving the door open for love with the sly verse, “I am alone…but I am alone in this room with you.” Perhaps even the bleakest skies have a silver lining.

As a whole, Sharon Van Etten really hits the nail on the head with her third try. Tramp takes the best qualities of her prior releases and mixes it in with entirely new influences to create something wholly refreshing – albeit depressing. Weaknesses are scarce, but can most likely be found in the album’s unrelenting glumness and homogeneous rhythm. There aren’t many shakeups or surprises, but for what it is, the music is executed almost flawlessly. Those looking for one of the year’s early gems should afford their ears the opportunity to fall upon the impassioned Tramp.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2012



15889 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Steaming on spinner:

http://music.aol.com/new-releases-full-cds/spinner#/2

Digging: Maybeshewill - Fair Youth

klap
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2012



10328 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

steaming eh

Digging: Literature - Chorus

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2012



15889 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

oops yeah

pizzamachine
February 9th 2012



12571 Comments


Dunno why no one is commenting. Great review dude.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2012



15889 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Thanks Pizza < 3

been going through a mild case of writer's block lately but i'm happy with how this came out

Jash
February 9th 2012



4244 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

great record, hopefully now it'll get more attention

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
February 10th 2012



15889 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

yeah hopefully...this is something I think a lot of people would appreciate

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
February 10th 2012



6443 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Will check this out because I'm fairly interested, but the snippets of lyrics you mentioned seem a bit too blunt for my taste tbh.

Digging: Interpol - El Pintor

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
February 10th 2012



15889 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Really? I thought the lyrics were really interesting

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
February 10th 2012



6443 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Well I'm only going by the ones you mentioned ;)
It's just that they don't really seem that strong when I read them without hearing the songs.
I'll form a full opinion after I listen to the lp in detail (obviously).

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
February 10th 2012



15889 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Cool let me know what you think

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
February 10th 2012



4507 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great album, liked The National undertones. How's her last album?

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
February 10th 2012



15889 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Both of her albums before this are good but this is definitely her best

letsgofishing
February 10th 2012



901 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Dug this..

Nice review Sowing.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
February 10th 2012



15889 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

glad you liked it...any favorite tracks?

Tyrael
February 11th 2012



20825 Comments


yea

good review

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
February 11th 2012



6443 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This is pretty good. I still find the lyrics themself pretty standard, but it's the delivery that makes them great.

Eko
February 11th 2012



2119 Comments


Serpents is really great, might check the rest out

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2012



15889 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Thanks Tyrael : )

And that's cool Clerqie, I agree that the emotion behind the lines is what gives them their weight.

You might like this Eko just be aware that there aren't many hooks. The selling point for me is the heaviness of the emotion.

Shoegazer29
February 12th 2012



22 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

"glad you liked it...any favorite tracks?"

I think "Serpents," "All I Can" and "Leonard" are all phenomenal. Of course there's not a bad, or even mediocre song in the bunch - I think this is 2012's album to beat right now.

I especially love Tramp because she's been working her way to this point for several years. No overnight blog success, or hipster-baiting mysterious YouTube videos. Just well-written songs delivered with painstaking honesty and beautiful voicing. I wish her every success and hope this proves a grower for many people come list season at the end of this year.



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