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Sharon Van Etten – Tramp

February 12, 2012
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I’ve never read anyone’s diary. Sure, in the 21st century blogs have become a really popular way for people to write down their thoughts, but these are things that, at some point, are intended to be read. It’s on the internet, where nothing stays hidden for long. But what about a diary, something that is the literal definition of private. They are usually hidden, only accessed in those desperate times. The diary is the true confidant, it doesn’t judge you, it just listens. So, when I first listened to Sharon Van Etten‘s new album, Tramp, I was stuck by how personal this album is. Van Etten has spoken in interviews about how this album is a the least personal album for her yet. She has tried to put friend’s experiences down here this time too. But when one listens, they can only hear her voice, so brutally honest, singing of love lost, of insecurities, of life in relationship and out of relationship.

Nearly every song on this album is worth mentioning. The opening track, “Warsaw”, brings the listener to the present of what Van Etten’s music has become. Gone is the single acoustic guitar, here is the layered music that having a producer like Aaron Dessner will surely give you. From there it is a sonic journey inside of a woman’s mind, everything she thinks as she sits in silence. The music industry has been dominated by the masculine side of relationships, so it is refreshing and breathtaking to get the feminine thoughts and opinions. Standout track “Give Out” is a narrative of honesty, something that characterizes the entire album. Starting with the strumming of a guitar and Van Etten’s soaring vocals, it quickly moves to an insanely catchy chorus, “You’re the reason why I’ll move to the city/or why I’ll need to leave”. It is to the point and refreshingly honest, and the album only gets better from here, culminating in the closing track “Joke or a Lie”. The music swirls around Van Etten’s vocals, with the piercing line “I am alone in this room with you”.

This album is an invitation into something as intimate as a diary. When listening to it you can’t help but feel like you are getting to know a stranger in ways that are usually impossible to discover. These are the thoughts of a person dealing with love and the loss of love, brutally and refreshingly honest. This is the kind of album that noise canceling headphones are made for, best listened to in a quiet, intimate space. You won’t regret it.

For more, read this fantastic post from the New York Times.

Tramp was released by Jagjaguwar on 2/7/2012. Buy it here.

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