Sharon Van Etten’s got one of those voices that’ll cut right through a room. She’s not a belter; it’s a quiet power that will cause you to lose your train of thought mid-conversation, halt the pint glass halfway to your lips, miss that last step.
Most of Van Etten’s latest release, Tramp, is filled with little meditations, her gorgeous voice weaving in and out of the music. While all solid, the first three songs are far and away the best on the album.
“Serpent”, the lead single, starts with a guitar riff that sounds like a less-frantic “Everlong“. The song will quickly bore itself into your brain, but not because it’s got a catchy hook – it’s more the product of the drums snapping and chipping away a path that lets the lyrics flow through. Similarly, the lilt in Van Etten’s voice on the word “you” throughout the opening track “Warsaw” scythes through the bullshit – there’s no hiding from what she throws your way.
The bravura of these two tracks perfectly bookends the excellent “Give Out”. There’s something immediately sad about it – it pulls at your gut before your brain even has a chance to switch gears. Following the seeming confidence of “Warsaw”, “Give Out” is the moment you go home alone, drunk, questioning every decision you’ve ever made.
“So what’s with the eyes in the back of room?”, asks Van Etten, even though she knows why they’re all on her.