Music Album Review: Tramp by Sharon Van Etten

By Maya A. Weisinger

With the release of Tramp, Sharon Van Etten brings a diverse set of characters to our palette, introducing us to a femme fatale and then taking us home to lie in the bed of a sleepyheaded chickadee. Van Etten has been making her nest in the recent music 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 lead to the great mix of acoustics with the occasional rocky punch (listen: Magic Chords), definitely showcasing Van Etten’s range of musical abilities. Songs like We Are Fine, featuring Zach Condon from Beirut, proved even further that perhaps she could use an extra dose of collaboration juice. On her own, we get a comfortable, worn-in feeling. But with the few songs that feature the vocal backing of Condon the fullness that immediately hits the ear makes me realize that introducing another voice or even another medium to the mix would enhance the listening experience of this album by at least 75 percent. Though the lovely Van Etten takes us through what appears to be a tense nighttime adventure into the bleak hours of the morning, it seems as though she paints an intangible dreamscape; something only truly understandable to the one experiencing the dream, only a faint description of something great to someone else. This album is easy to fall into, easy to get lost in, easy to forget. I feel a spirit like Van Etten wasn’t meant to be treated as such. The rockier songs on the album prove she is more than someone who takes no for an answer. Which is why the most appreciated thing about this album is that she delivers a truly honest performance. The fact that it sounds nothing like she was trying too hard to appeal to us makes it a precious listen. I see a stronger, more corporeal Sharon Van Etten heading towards us in the future, leaving this album as a striking promise. refresh –>