Release date: Feb. 7, 2012
Record label: Jagjaguwar
Official website: http://sharonvanetten.com/
The buzz: Brooklyn-based, folk-inspired singer—wait, hold on, this is actually good, I promise. Sharon Van Etten’s second album, 2010’s “Epic,” made a big (and well-deserved) splash in the music blogosphere. Since then, she signed with one of the better indie labels around and spent more than a year, off and on, in the garage studio of the National’s Aaron Dessner.
The verdict: It’s only February, but don’t be surprised to see “Tramp” popping up on year-end lists. Like her new labelmate Bon Iver, Van Etten made her name on sparse and devastatingly personal-sounding songs, and now looks to strike a balance between playing her strongest hand and continuing to push into new ground. She pulls it off perfectly, mixing in rock dynamics and added atmosphere while retaining her intimacy and emotional intensity. Few have Van Etten’s gift for wringing maximum feeling from a straightforward lyric (“I am bad at loving you”); she embraces the dramatic, but never falls off the precipice into melodrama. “Tramp” caters to lovers of carefully constructed full albums; the songs stand alone just fine—there’s not a dud among the dozen—but when you reach the woozy, melancholy conclusion, the impact is heightened by knowing all that’s come before.
Did you know? Other guests on the album include Zach Condon (Beirut), Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak) and Julianna Barwick.