Like most pop singers, Sharon Van Etten seems to love repetition — a technique used aggressively in ad jingles and Top 40 hits, but also in more hypnotic and emotionally complicated ways. Van Etten's new record, Tramp, is full of repeated riffs, drones and phonemes, and they're more intense and emotionally packed than ever. Songs like "Serpents" display her expansive voice and coiled songwriting, and are earning Van Etten a good deal of attention.
For all the fetishization of Craig Finn's words — which he's spit out in knotty bundles on many albums by rock bands The Hold Steady and Lifter Puller — he's usually careful to dress them up in brash, populist sounds. His desperate, damaged characters may live their lives on the brink, keeping one eye trained on the redemption brought about by some combination of God and rock 'n' roll, but Finn rarely leaves their stories unadorned.