Tramp, Sharon Van Etten’s third record release, is the perfect folk album for the girlfriend who’s just had enough of the bullshit. She wants to be loved, but she isn’t getting the love she wants back. She’s not only been bruised, but she’s a bruiser herself, and yet she can end up hurting herself more than anyone else could. The emotional pains and sorrows Van Etten displays on this album are exuding with a sort of peacefulness and grace not many other artists can claim.
“It’s not because I always hold out / It might be I always hold on” she confesses on “Give Out,” a chilling song double-tracked with The National’s Aaron Dessner, who also helped record the album at his personal studio. The resonant guitars are all that fill the atmospheric void between Van Etten’s private exchange and the listener. Twice we hear songs dedicated to her past lovers, “Kevin’s” and “Leonard.” The former has Van Etten blaming him for the pain and the latter self-deprecating herself for the grief. Most of the album tends to the intimate confessionals of her life like this. Her first single, for instance, “Serpents” is one of her few rock oriented songs about a physically abusive relationship she is trying to over come: “Serpents in my mind / I am searching for your crimes / Everything changes / In time.” Clearly this girl has dealt with almost too much pain for one person, and not the kind of high school melodrama that makes Taylor Swift a household name. Or just the opposite of Lana Del Rey.
Stylistically, the album is very similar to Mazzy Star and even a little bit of Carole King. Both artists underscore songs about women who are just as powerful as they are vulnerable, and Sharon is just the latest female folk artist to notably make her mark here. Tramp can be at times hard to listen to when you really dwell into and decipher the lyrical content, but it’s that raw emotion polished with heartfelt truth of her past relations that is also the driving force of what makes this album so sad and unique.
Favorite Tracks: “Give Out,” “Kevin’s,” “All I Can”
Listen to Tramp now, via Spotify.