Friday, February 10, 2012

Sharon Van Etten - Tramp

Sharon Van Etten released her third album, Tramp, this week on the Jagjaguwar label. I'm still digging into the album, so this isn't a formal review so much as a heads up that Sharon is an artist I think you should check out. Fans of various dreampop bands like Opal, Mazzy Star, Galaxie 500 and Beach House will no doubt find a lot to like about Sharon's music, as will fans of various "confessional" female singer-songwriters. But I think Sharon's music, though obviously indebted to both these genres, has the ability to speak to those who are not necessarily fans of either type of music.

What sets Sharon apart, to my ears, is her voice. She is able to project a kind of power and authority through her vocals that is rare in either the dreampop or confessional songwriter arena. There is a muscularity and confidence to her singing that not many vocalists are capable of, and is perhaps at odds with the introspective, wounded-by-love nature of her lyrics.

I don't know, but if I had to guess I would say that Sharon has had some formal voice training at some point in her life. She seems at all times to know not only what she wants her voice to do, but more importantly to have an innate sense of what she wants her voice to do to the listener. My suspicion of formal voice training should not lead you to the conclusion that her voice is overly pretty, or her delivery mannered or showy. On the contrary, Van Etten is not afraid to let the rough edges of her voice show, it's just that she seems to have a sense of control over her voice that is all too rare in the indie rock arena.

Tramp is well worth checking out, as are her previous albums Because I Was In Love and especially Epic.  Amazon currently has the MP3 version of Tramp available at a special low price, and the track "Serpents" is available as a free download.

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