Sharon Van Etten: “Kevin’s”
The songs on Sharon Van Etten’s latest album, Tramp, which came out in February of this year, tend not to move beyond a certain, slowish tempo. But that doesn’t mean that the album is any less exciting for it. Keeping it slower allows Van Etten’s deep-ish, complex voice more room to spread out and be fully appreciated. She’s a multifaceted singer, dramatic and intense one moment, and wispy and vulnerable the next. Occasionally, she sounds like what you might have ended up with if you were to cross Mama Cass Elliot and Nico — her tone sometimes resembles Elliot’s, but with a Velvet Underground-y darkness.
Tramp is a thoroughly satisfying listening experience, but one that rewards patience and attention. It probably isn’t the ideal music to blast at your next summer patio party. But if you happen to work in a record or book store, playing this over the store speakers will undoubtedly garner a few inquiries as it seeps into the unwary browser’s subconsciousness, resulting in an insatiable need to know more.
Among the many standout tracks on Tramp, “Kevin’s” is a majestic song that quietly builds in intensity from its acoustic guitar beginning, not dissimilarly from Mazzy Star’s “Fade into You.” The sparse instrumentation gives Van Etten all the room she needs to reach deep and express the multitude of emotions that the song brings forth from her. It’s a moving song, albeit cryptic in its meaning, and one that just might move you to listen to a lot more Sharon Van Etten.