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Friday, August 3, 2012

"Tramp", the triumph of Sharon Van Etten


I relentlessly encouraged people to check out the music of Sharon Van Etten, even more after watching her live. Following the recommendation, I really wanted to review "Tramp", because is one of these rare albums that endures, sticks with you in a very special way. It gets inside, on a very intimate level. It is hard to define in words, but almost all of this tracks are the vehicle of expression of an artist reaching the audience with her talent, tunes and a brutal honesty, perhaps also exorcising her demons in the process too (you can search for her personal story around). As an obsessed music lover, few records are capable of reaching through your ears, your stomach, you mind and your soul. "Tramp" does.

It all begins when the drums arrive on "Warsaw", inoculating an unexpected vigour to the tune, wrapping Sharon's gorgeous voice, announcing "I want to show you". Indeed she will. Immediately, as a matter of fact, as "Give Out" quickly shows this is going to be an intense  ride. By the time the disarming couplet "You're the reason why I'll move to the city/you're why I'll need to leave" arrives for the second time, anyone listening to "Tramp" should experiment goosebumps (if you are human, that is). I assure you it won't be the last time.

Because then comes "Serpents", all tension, urgency, fire. Unresolved anger and a mesmerizing work where lyrics and sounds (I clearly hear the echoes of The National here, Aaron Dessner has been a major factor producing the record) bite at the same time. With such a powerful opener trio, its understandable the melancholic "Kevin's" might not as remarkable, although being a strung-out number where Sharon allows her voice to shine, works in a probably needed lighter affair within a heavily-charged record. Anyway, it serves well its purpose of anticipating "Leonard", the next and astonishing song. The combination of, I dare to say, a happy melody, with such a poignant lyric is breathtaking. How can someone put such tenderness and emotion into a song? The chorus is among the most beautiful things I have heard in my entire life.

"In Line", despite the compelling of its slow-burning crescendo with Sharon repeating those two words like a desperate mantra, might be the less memorable song of the lot. But like "Kevin's" before, it provides a shelter before the storm of "All I Can". Van Etten’s voice again rising while the music grows and grows, building an epic number (hear that brass section), in which the singer-songwriter delivers some of the most striking lines of her career. What an mind-blowing, compelling tune.

With the help of Beirut's Zach Condon "We Are Fine", follows on an apparently brighter way, at least musically speaking. It gives a refreshing sense of relief to the album, as well as shows another side of Van Etten's way of approaching the songs. "Magic Chords" also succeeds in providing "Tramp" some diversity in its style and tone. With its jazzy/waltsy vibe, it looks, smells and feels like a nocturnal affair full of emotional turmoil and possibility. Impossible no to fall in love with Sharon's voice right with this one.

"Ask" repeats the formula of "All I Can" with equally moving results, hitting the listener hard with the mixture of moving lyrics and bursting sounds. And its followed by "I'm Wrong", another epic number, that hides all its eloquence on a powerful and shocking droning sound. After the final track "Joke Or A Lie" concludes, sparse, breathy and unexpectedly (in my opinion) hopeful despite the final sentence "Believe me, I tried", you might as well try to dry your eyes, sigh and treasure "Tramp" among the most precious "properties" of your record collection. Here's a total triumph of an album, an incredibly powerful one, rich, disarming, fragile and intense as very few. The perfect demonstration of the immense talent and personality of Sharon Van Etten.

SCORE: 8,75/10

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