12 November 2012

Sharon Van Etten: Triumph in Tramp

There is a very refreshing emotional frankness to Sharon Van Etten’s music. Her singing – from the rueful starkness of her first album, Because I Was In Love, to the exorcistical maelstrom of her latest, Tramp – is never less than commanding. Her early work is emotionally devastating in the way it utilizes a simple economy of means: methodical expression of emotional turmoil married to spare acoustic guitar. The lyrics dominate her approach to create drama where music is a background support. Tramp works in the opposite direction – to some diminishing return as noted by Ed Comentale – with volume and furor dominating the usual method of Sharon’s direct lyrics and singing. The furor in the singing here is a welcome development as the songs that benefit most from it (‘Serpents’ and ‘All I Can’) showcase her confidence impeccably. The anger in this album is not scorned or defensive. It instead functions as an assault on the hell that emotional abuse wreaks. Shadows and demons are given no quarter here. Sharon dispatches them easily, but the tension of that battle is how she arrives there to stand over them. Difficult progress as we listen, but not difficult to appreciate. The personal triumph is all hers, but the example is an inspiration to us all.

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