“Give Out” is a track on Sharon van Etten’s 2012 album, “Tramp” and right now it is my new favourite song. Has been since I had that week off at the beginning of the New Year, when I walked around London listening to her two albums on my iPod: “Tramp” and “Are We There?”, her acclaimed 2014 album, which I had at No 7 in my Best of 2014.
The decisive moment was when I was walking from the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square to the Victoria and Albert in Kensington. From Rembrandt to Constable. I was listening to the two albums on shuffle as I walked past Buckingham Palace, towards Hyde Park Corner, on Constitution Hill, when “Give Out” came on. I’d always liked it; but it was one of those moments that you can’t really understand – the song just took on that extra resonance. I played it four or five times in a row after that. I imagined singing it, the emotion and the power of the song.
Like most Sharon van Etten songs, at least on the two albums I’ve heard as I write, “Give Out” is very personal. Her recent album. “Are We There?’ is a real break up album. “Tramp” is pretty gloomy as well, although “Give Out” is about the start of a relationship. There’s a bit of hope, but a lot of fear. A lot of self-doubt. Sharon is a hugely honest singer, with a beautiful, vulnerable voice, that has hints of Patti Smith and PJ Harvey. She’s from New York, so you get the picture!
There’s no official video for “Give Out”, but this is my favourite of the various YouTube videos. A simple song in some way, easy to play the chords, featuring A and E minor, of course (with the capo on the 4th fret) – but quite hard to get the phrasing right. It’s Sharon van Etten’s song, and she sings it in a very special way.