Judging by ‘Tramps’, her second LP, Sharon Van Etten has an almost incurably mournful soul. Her voice has a slightly jazzy quality, the kind of vocals you can imagine drifting from the stage in a smoke-filled basement bar, her music veering between urgent rock refrains and sorrowful, slow-paced laments. Opening track ‘Warsaw’, though, is jarring and unsettling, that beautifully forlorn voice weaving between raw-sounding, squally guitar lines. ‘Give Out’ is a simple but excellent acoustic effort, while ‘Serpents’ is driving, edgy, and shot through with drama and chaos. As an album, it’s slightly too laden with slow tracks, but the ponderous pace of songs like ‘In Line’ often give way to surges and crescendos of anti-euphoria, and featuring guest performances from indie luminaries including Beirut, ‘Tramps’ is that rare thing – an album that is consistently arresting.

By Chris Watkeys