Girls - Ghost Mouth
The majority is never right. Never, I tell you! That’s one of these lies in society that no free and intelligent man can help rebelling against. Who are the people that make up the biggest proportion of the population — the intelligent ones or the fools?
Generally speaking, my last semester wasn’t so hot in the grades department. So, I decided that this semester I would do so, so, so much better by going to class, and reading ahead, and even doing ALL the work.
This was, however, before I remembered that sleep was so much easier than all of that.
Tucked inside Sharon Van Etten’s small, slender frame is a powerful, evocative voice, one that delivers dirge-like folk ballads and aggressive provocations with equal command. On her third album, Tramp (out this week on Jagjaguar), Van Etten embraces a rich sound, one that is more brash and full compared to her previous efforts. While her intimate debut Because I Was in Love and its follow-up Epic were stand-outs in their own right, it’s Tramp that proves her sonic power.
Like any musician garnering buzz these days, Van Etten has an oft-repeated origin story. Living in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, with an emotionally abusive boyfriend, Van Etten channeled her insecurities and frustration into her music. Once she broke free from the stifling relationship, she gained confidence in her songwriting and performing and eventually moved back east to Brooklyn. That’s where she entered a scene of young musicians who pop up on Tramp in various places: Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner provides back-up vocals, and Beirut’s Zach Condon duets on “We Are Fine.” While her sound has evolved with each of her albums, her lyrics have remained personal and introspective. On Tramp’s first single, “Serpents,” Van Etten sings, “You enjoy sucking on dreams / so I will fall asleep with someone other than you.” Later, in the lovely and stark “Ask,” she declares, “I need more than the flowers and letters, man / It’s not that I won’t try, it’s that you won’t again.”
Tramp is a collection of dichotomies, much like Van Etten herself. We spoke with Van Etten over the phone, finding her to be slightly guarded and contained with her responses. But on her record (and on stage), she is open and candid, and hers is an candor that’s a throwback to the women of the ’90s who picked up their electric guitars and embraced their fears and hopes through fuzzy instruments and frank lyrics. She is a woman who finds empowerment by laying bare her wounds, and gains assurance from sharing those emotions on stage. She shared with us her insight into the songwriting process, why she and Kanye West aren’t so different, and how she managed to get The National’s Aaron Dessner to produce her new album.
THE BELIEVER: Do you make drawings every day?
DAVID SHRIGLEY: I don’t draw every day. I tend to draw intensely during certain periods of time. I draw to amuse myself on occasion, when I am bored and drawing is the only fun to be had.
I definitely feel better when my heroes admit to not drawing every day, like John Porcellino: “I’ll go months without drawing…”
The Clash | Death Or Glory
The only band that matters.
Some girl was wearing a London Calling shirt today, and that song got stuck in my head. So, I came back to my dorm room, shut the door, put my laptop on the highest sound setting, and started playing the album. Great, great day.
The fault finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse.