SHARON VAN ETTEN / TENNIS
308 N. 2nd Ave.
Phoenix, AZ, 85003
Doors 7:30PM / Show 8:30PM
This event is 16 and over
SHARON VAN ETTEN
The shimmering sound of Sharon Van Etten's Jagjaguwar debut album, Tramp, both defies and illuminates the unsteadiness of a life in flux. Throughout the 14 months of scattered recording sessions, Van Etten was without a home -- crashing with friends and storing her possessions between varied locations. The only constant in Van Etten's life during this time was spent in Aaron Dessner's garage studio.
A two year journey brought her to that point of instability. Upon the release of epic (Ba Da Bing; 2010), Sharon Van Etten surprised the music world with a touching embrace. Having established herself as a reliable performer around New York, and coming off the release of her spartan first effort, Because I Was In Love (Language of Stone; 2009), Van Etten created a short album of diverse songs connected by a shared goal of expanded sound and her unmistakable voice. Fans quickly picked favorites, discovered their choices changing, then changing yet again. That is the magic of epic; the intricate, understated record covered so much ground within its 33 minutes, it required more than an initial half hour to absorb. Since epic's release, she has opened the Pitchfork Music Festival, played The Hollywood Bowl with Neko Case and at Radio City Music Hall with The Antlers, sung on new records for Beirut and Ed Askew, and collaborated with Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and Megafaun on the Songs Of The South project.
Dessner, a member of The National, heard Van Etten early on, and in collaboration with Justin Vernon, performed a cover of "Love More" at the 2010 MusicNow Festival in Cincinnati. Van Etten heard about this and contacted him. Almost immediately they formed plans to work together, with Dessner offering both a location for Van Etten to record new songs, as well as the opinions of a wise producer.
Now, one year later, Van Etten unveils Tramp, an album showcasing an artist in full control of her powers. Tramp contains as much striking rock (the precise venom of "Serpents," the overwhelming power of "Ask"), as pious, minimal beauty (the earnest solemnity of "All I Can," the breathtaking "Kevins," "Joke or a Lie"); it can be as emotionally combative ("Give Out") as it can sultry ("Magic Chords"). Contributions from Matt Barrick (Walkmen), Thomas Bartlett (Doveman), Zach Condon (Beirut), Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak), Julianna Barwick, and Dessner himself add a glowing sheen to the already substantial offering
Van Etten has traveled far, and if her displacement took an emotional toll, she offset those setbacks with a powerfully articulated vision. And so, once again, each listener will discover their own moments along the way, and the debates as to the best song start anew.
If Tennis’ debut album, Cape Dory, was a narrative of a specific time and sensation, the
Denver group’s follow-up, Young and Old, is its antithesis. The new disc, recorded in
Nashville with Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney, embraces a grander landscape of ideas
and feelings, revealing a riskier, looser version of the band.
Cape Dory, released in January of 2011, chronicled a sailing voyage embarked upon by band
members and married couple Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, who met while in college in
Denver, and was never intended to be shared. Young and Old, in some ways a reaction to
its predecessor, represents the first time Riley and Moore have penned tracks that are meant
for those outside themselves. “We wrote Cape Dory almost by accident and after playing
those 10 songs over and over for ten months we knew exactly what we wanted to be playing
onstage each night,” Moore says. “We were compelled right away to write this new record
and it came very quickly. This is the first time we wrote songs for the sake of sharing them
and performing them for other people.”
Many of the tracks that appear on Young and Old were written while the band, which
also includes drummer James Barone, toured on their debut. Parts were imagined during
soundchecks in venues across the country and great thought was put into how the new
numbers would translate onstage. Riley and Moore solidified the tracks in May and, along
with Barone, spent nine days recording with Carney in August at Haptown Studio—the first
time any of the band members had worked with an actual producer.
“We felt like we were doing one thing well and we wanted to expand sonically,” Moore
says. “We wanted someone with a dirty, bluesy rock background, someone who was the
opposite of our sound to help lend an edge to our music. We felt like Patrick would able to
handle our songs well and he did.” Riley adds, “Patrick really channeled our ideas in the best
The resulting album retains Tennis’ sparkling indie pop aesthetic, but expands the sonic
and thematic elements to include a greater range of styles and ideas. Although Young and
Old isn’t a concept album in the way Cape Dory was, this record, which takes its title from
a William Butler Yeats poem called “A Woman Young and Old,” finds cohesion even as
it expands what the group has previously done. “I didn’t want each song to be in complete
isolation from the next,” Moore says. “I wanted them to belong together. I felt like I’d done
a lot of reflection personally while spending months on the road contemplating the transition
I had made over the past year. I feel like each song is a vignette, a glimpse into a personal
moment of mine spanning from childhood to womanhood.”
“My Better Self,” a song that inspired Moore to pen the other lyrics for the album, is dulcet
and introspective, a hushed pop number that showcases the more intimate side of the band
while “Petition,” a bluesy, exuberant tune, offers an opposing, kickier sensibility. “It All Feels
the Same,” the disc’s delicately propulsive opener, marries the band’s past with their current
freer playing philosophy. “It’s maybe one of the oldest songs we have musically, but it took
a totally different turn in the studio,” Riley notes. “It was a nice taste of what’s to come. The
idea of writing something so long ago that takes a shape you’d never thought of.”
In the end, Young and Old doesn’t so much tell a story as it does chronicle an evolution.
It reveals a growing sense of liberation, of musicians coming into their own together. Its
melodies are enchanting yet it’s all infused with an edgier tone than Tennis’ debut, a logical
next step in the band’s career. “We aim to always be moving forward,” Riley says. “We’re
always reaching toward the next song. It may feel distant but the more we work at it the closer
it gets. That goal is always to reach it.”
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