Highlights: Give Out, Serpents, Magic Chords
Sharon Van Etten is an American singer-songwriter whose latest record (her fourth so far) is a kind of bruised, emotional, intense affair you might associate with the likes of PJ Harvey. Tramp is quality indie-folk propelled by confident instrumentation and some truly expressive (not least vocally) tunes.
Modern indie-folk is many things: boring, bearded, bizarre. But one thing’s for certain: way too often it is devoid of any kind of personality. Tramp, thankfully, suffers from no such problems. Being essentially a singer-songwriter record, it is infused with the artist’s personality. Does Sharon Van Etten have the kind of charisma that could sustain your interest over the course of these flawed, but compelling 46 minutes? I dare say she does. Tramp is made up of rockier and softer, you could even say bluisier moments. Of the two Tramp certainly favours the latter, but it’s the intense, propulsive energy rush of “Serpents” that seems most impressive. The rest of the album is more slow-burning and atmospheric, but still good enough: there’s the waltzy melancholia of “Leonard”, the acoustic drive of “Give Out”, the moody, organ-driven charm of “Magic Chords”... However, the downside is that it might also get somewhat monotonous with tracks like “In Line” or “I’m Wrong”; occasionally too lethargic, occasionally pretty watered-down.
But like I say, it’s Sharon’s personality that is at the core of all this. The lyrics and vocal melodies sound so emotionally charged, you could never mistake any of it for the contemporary breed of folk singers and their bland and brittle pleasures. Also, I would just like to say that “Serpents” is better than anything off Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea. As for the rating, Tramp is a high seven.