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Sharon Van Etten
Over two low-profile but highly regarded albums, Brooklyn singer Sharon Van Etten has built a small but sturdy body of work that's inspired a select songwriters to cover her songs, including Dave Alvin and the National. Her 2010 album, "Epic," also landed on a few best-of-the-year lists.
Last summer, Van Etten signed with the midsize indie label Jagjaguwar, the home of four-time Grammy nominee Justin Vernon and his band Bon Iver. Like Vernon, with whom she has duetted in the live setting, Van Etten has a voice with range and myriad emotional capacities; she can move from glee to glum in a single phrase-turn.
Her new album is called "Tramp." The record's dozen songs put her voice front and center with meandering musical subtext swirling around it. A slow-burning but ultimately incendiary record that, in the best of worlds would propel the singer to Bon Iverian levels of acclaim.
-- Randall Roberts