sat 15/06/2024

CD: Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow

CD: Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow

Returning album blossoms with high emotion and hypnotic glimmer

Is Remind Me Tomorrow the album Sharon Van Etten never meant to make?

In 2016, Sharon Van Etten took a hiatus from music, and threw herself into other projects. She got her first acting role in Netflix drama The OA and, inspired by the intense emotional connection her fans had found with her songs, began studying to become a mental health counsellor. She also found out that she was pregnant.

Of course, before long, music found a way of creeping back in; her performance in David Lynch’s 2017 revival of Twin Peaks took her music back onstage, and the process of penning her first film score took Van Etten back to the studio. It was here, working on the score for Katherine Dieckmann’s film Strange Weather, that she grew tired of writing on the guitar, and found herself drawn to other instruments to clear her head: piano, organ, and the Jupiter 4 synth belonging to her studio-mate, Michael Cera.

Explosive teaser single "Comeback Kid" was stomping and defiant, bursting with breakbeat, crash and synth, and hinted at a stylistic departure for this fifth album. Indeed, Remind Me Tomorrow definitely has more upbeat tunes than her previous works, and boasts a newfound immediacy that will likely win over plenty of new listeners. But Van Etten’s trademark intensity and vulnerability are still there, in abundance; the essence of her early music, her propensity to darkness that resonated so strongly with fans, is by no means lost in her sonic experimentation. Vocally she is as raw as ever, and there’s a vital poignancy to her lyrics.

The album begins with minimal piano ballad “I Told You Everything”, which captures the dizzying closeness of a new love while reliving the painful memory of the old: “You said, ‘Holy shit, you almost died’”, she recounts (Van Etten has spoken candidly about the years she spent with a boyfriend suffering addiction).  High emotion runs through this album, and peaks on life-affirming pop hit “Seventeen”, in which she addresses her younger self at the very age she entered into that abusive relationship. There’s a retrospective kindness in the hushed line, “I wish I could show you how much you've grown,” only made more heart-breaking by the contrast of how 17-year-old Van Etten would view her present self, delivered in an almost-scream, “Afraid that you'll be just like me”.

Another highlight is “Jupiter 4”, a slow-paced, swooning masterpiece which again hits home what Van Etten has been through: “Baby, I've been waiting my whole life for someone like you”. It’s clear that Remind Me Tomorrow is informed by the experience of being in a loving, trusting relationship, and it’s worth noting the influence motherhood has had on the sound of the album. Since the birth of her young son, Van Etten sings in a lower range, and also relinquished production duties to John Congleton (St Vincent, Angel Olsen and John Grant). The result is an album that prangs with intelligent reflection, and pulls you in with a stormy, hypnotic glimmer.

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