2012 Album Review :: Sharon Van Etten ‘Tramp’
August 28th 2013
On August 29, FBi hits double digits. To celebrate, the Flog is taking a trip down memory lane: we’re counting down 10 years of albums in 10 days. Finally, we emerge in 2012…
2012 :: Sharon van Etten – Tramp
In early 2012 I kissed goodbye to the clean, rolling hills off drought-flecked country NSW and moved to the city.
Not a big deal. Plenty of people do it, can’t wait to do it, never look back. I was split evenly between a desire for something bigger than my little town could provide, and the fact that everyone and everything I loved and knew was there and showing no signs of coming along for the ride.
It was exhilarating… in that special sense, where it’s a synonym for terrifying. I was on a 24/7 high fuelled by smog, public transport and the constant flurry of new faces and names there was no way I’d ever remember. I sucked up diversity sponge-style. I fumbled around like another angst-ridden metaphor you’re probably sick of visualising.
The music and arts scenes of my country home were dwarfed by electrifying opportunity – the nurturing of expression and creativity of individuals within university, the city, and soon FBi. But sponges can only suck for so long before they’re all black and gross.
In the middle of all the mess and noise, Sharon Van Etten released Tramp. It was my first introduction to the girl from New Jersey, her soaring upper register weighted by the raw, grittiness of her lower. She was honest. Unlike the rest of the left-of-field releases I’d been listening to in a flurried attempt to musically educate myself, she just sang, really fucking well, about stuff that was real. Rumour has it that Tramp followed a difficult break up for Van Etten. Go figure. It’s hard to believe the self-harmonised, bare, telling poetry of ‘Give Out’ could be in any way contrived:
You’re the reason why I’d move to the city, or why I’d need to leave.
Her lyricism is deceptively simple and relatable.
As the ‘well, well, well, I am bad at loving’ of ‘Leonard’ climbs an octave or two, she tugs at more than one kind of chord, somehow bypassing everything that was ever lame about love songs.
Every release since Because I was in Love in 2009 has added another layer to Sharon’s sparse, unaffected production. Tramp is denser than its predecessors, her acoustic roots grounding a more instrumental, rich record. The haunting sustain that caused pause in ‘Dsharpg’ was more isolated in 2010’s Epic. Tramp sees a slightly darker tone disseminated evenly throughout her standard acoustic. For me, Van Etten stuck out from the ever-multiplying and occasionally mediocre folk scene through her musical nakedness, stripped back and willing to be what she was without the need to shock.
Plenty have jumped on for the ride, The National’s Aaron Dessner produced Tramp and it features a scattering of talent on backing vocals, Zac Condon amongst them. The openness to collaboration has diversified Van Etten’s production without compromising her individuality. Plus you know, who wouldn’t want to BFFs with Shazza Van E? Talent aside, she’s a total babe.
Two worlds remain connected by Skype, messaging and the occasional five-hour train trip.
Some days I forget about what exists unchanged on the other side of the mountains. Other days I drop everything to book tickets because I have to get out. Whatever her emotional-backstory, in 2012 Van Etten sung to me, travelling with me through earphones as the landscape changed.
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