Sharon Van Etten – Tramp

6 Feb

Sharon Van Etten’s third album, Tramp, is an extremely introspective and emotional record.  Have you ever walked in on somebody crying their heart out to a close friend of theirs?  Instead of the “get the hell out of here!” teary-eyed look one would expect, Van Etten’s raspy yet soothing hum, akin to Kathleen Edward’s folkier acoustic work, welcomes the listener in as if to say “I don’t mind bearing my soul to a total stranger.”  The album parks the listener in a chair with a notepad while Van Etten reclines on a leather couch with her guitar: self-doubt, reservation, anger, sorrow, guilt, loneliness, anxiety…it’s all there in Tramp.

The New Jersey native (I know…) spent her college years at Middle Tennessee State University before returning to Jersey and ultimately landing herself in Brooklyn.  Tramp was produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner and recorded in his BK garage studio.  It must be a pretty popular place for musical tinkering too as Tramp not only includes Aaron Dessner on tracks, but also his brother Bruce (also of The National), The Walkmen’s Matt Barrick, Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner and Zach Condon of Beirut.

Van Etten’s lyrics are simple though poignant and accessible to anyone who has ever wronged or been wronged in a relationship.  On “Give Out” she sings, “You’re the reason why I’ll move to the city, or why I’ll need to leave.”  Ever been torn in a long distance relationship?  “I wanted to try for you, wanted to die for you…dramatic things” followed by “I’m bad at loving you.”  The feelings…they, they just aren’t comin’!  I’ve been on both sides of the “Leonard” situation before, though never with a “Leonard.”  And the next time that I’m having a panic attack, I think I’ll try putting on “We Are Fine” and see if I can’t just talk myself down.  Some tracks hit home, and some hit you in the face.

Tramp is definitely worth a listen, particularly if you have a soft spot for female singer/songwriters.

Noteworthy Tracks: “Give Out,” “Serpents,” “Leonard” and “We Are Fine”

Rating: ****

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