After the release of her second album, 2010’s Epic, and the groundswell of attention that followed, Sharon Van Etten seemed poised for bigger things to come. When word came that she was working on her next recording with members of The National (including Aaron Dessner producing), as well as Juliana Barwick and Beirut’s Zach Condon, among others, expectations were understandably high, and the resulting Tramp has done nothing to disappoint. But whereas her first pair of releases found her songs coming from a place of emotional damage, as much self-therapy as expression and confession, the 12 songs on Tramp reveal a healthier and more self-assured state of mind — recovering from darkness if not yet fully recovered.
Similarly, the sound of the new record is less tentative. Thanks in large part to the production of Dessner, the songs are meatier: the guitars are louder, the drums occasionally thunderous, and Van Etten sounds more confident than she ever probably thought she could. Lead single “Serpents” positively hisses with vitriol — Van Etten employed a full backing band on her Epic, too, but it never sounded like a rock band. It’s been an interesting — and also very satisfying — artistic evolution to watch.
We joined Van Etten and her band during their soundcheck at the Aladdin Theater recently, and they offered up songs from Tramp. Van Etten also talked about the origin of that title, her new musical palette, and how she’s handling all of the attention she’s been getting lately.