May 18, 2012

tell me not to trip or to lose sight

I first fell in love with Sharon Van Etten for her talent in phrasing lyrics in a perfectly excoriating way, and then stayed for the powerfully gorgeous music. The opening stanza of the first song of hers I heard, “A Crime,” has a simple line directed at someone that she is still in love with “after all this time,” and she delivers it perfectly scaldingly:

…I’d rather let you touch my arm until you die
seduce me with your charms until I’m drunk on them
go home and drink in bed and never let myself be loved like that again

Vibrating with a tight string of elegant sadness woven through, Sharon’s latest album Tramp is punched through by her understated insight. She articulates those quiet, insistent anxieties that I also feel, with a very sharp edge of intelligence.

The album feels to me like Jacob wrestling the angel, but all painted up in summer-hot orange reds like Gauguin’s version of the telling. The perspective is off-center and powerful in that obliqueness; the foist and the shove, the arching of the back to shrug off the weight is camouflaged in clear strong artistic lines, and the quiet grace of the ladies in profile in the foreground.

This is an album of heft and grief, but also of a hovering loveliness. You don’t often get those two together because the one usually crushes the other. Sharon balances both.

“We Are Fine” is one of my favorites on the record; it’s co-written with Aaron Dessner from The National, and features the swoopy-fantastic vibrato voice of Beirut’s Zach Condon. Win-win-win.

We Are Fine – Sharon Van Etten

I have been listening to this loping album over and over since January, and it is so laden with terrific songs. “All I Can” is usually almost too potently eviscerating to play (yet, I do, and again). The song traces the taut sutures that bind together our (beautiful) wounds and our hopes for regeneration. We all make mistakes. Sharon says it like this, perfectly: “Wanting to love as new as I can / wanting to show I want my scars to help and heal.” The ethereal, silvery-black “Joke or a Lie” feels like an answer to any song on The National’s Boxer, like the female part of the conversation. “Kevin’s” is drowsily exquisite. This whole album is.

Tramp is also probably one of my favorite records of 2012, and it’s only May. Sharon alone is more than enough, but the record is also bursting almost unfairly with contributions from members of The National, Beirut, The Walkmen, Wye Oak, and Doveman.

Sharon is on tour now, coming through Colorado on my birthday. I’ll take it. Cross your fingers for a Chapel Session with her; she’d be one of my all-time most-desired in that cathedral space.

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  • First heard her on a recent Sound Opinions show. Incredible.

    Ben — May 18, 2012 @ 7:15 pm

  • Well said, Heather. SVE is an amazing musician! For whatever reason, her voice and music hits me unlike anything else. Her concerts are always a captivating, emotional experience. She’s also an entirely lovely person and it’s great to see her getting more well deserved acclaim. Much More Than That is a perfect song and my favorite of hers. Tramp is arguably my favorite album so far this year, up there with albums from Father John Misty, Damien Jurado and Cowboy Junkies. Please get SVE to play a Chapel Session. Cheers.

    Pete — May 19, 2012 @ 3:04 am

  • And the album is so inexpensive on Amazon right now. A perfect excuse to try it out.

    Mo — May 22, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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