Review: Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow

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Sharon Van Etten
Remind Me Tomorrow

On her fifth album, Sharon Van Etten has embraced change in both her personal and professional life to create her most honest and captivating record yet.

★★★★★

When most artists take a significant break between records, its to refresh and recharge. In Sharon Van Etten’s case, it has been anything but. In the interim between 2014’s ‘Are We There’ and this month’s ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ Van Etten has become a mother, returned to school for a psychology degree and featured in Netflix’s ‘The OA’. All of this whilst also finding time to dramatically embrace a new musical style on her fifth record.

Every artist knows they need to adapt, to not just stay relevant, but to keep themselves creatively engaged. A great artist does it naturally over a period of time. Despite a rather sharp turn towards the electronic, a far call from her folkier roots. ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ feels like a defining record and showcases why Van Etten is one such great artist.

It's not the new synth embraced melodies and intricate production that immediately grabs you though. Like always it is Van Etten’s incredible lyricism. From the very opening line, I was hooked “Sitting at the bar, I told you everything – you said ‘holy shit, you almost died’”. Van Etten is a confessional lyricist with the talent of knowing when to hold back on the details just enough to leave you with a sense of mystique and intrigue.

This confessional writing leads to some truly powerful moments, Van Etten’s a storyteller so she’s able to effortlessly paint images inside your mind. ‘Seventeen’ which sees a reflective Van Etten addressing a younger version of herself as she approaches her first pregnancy “I see you so uncomfortably alone, I wish I could show you how much you've grown." The resulting track is both a moving and captivating highlight on the record.

The new sonic approach is due to Van Etten joining up with renowned producer John Congleton (St Vincent, John Grant). His creativity and expertise with electronic sounds as well as his desire to experiment fits perfectly with Van Etten’s vision for the record. Throughout the record, the pair place reliance on a vintage Jupiter 4 synth (borrowed from actor Michael Cera no less). This adds a sense of foreboding to each track, embedding the lyrics with extra gravitas. Most notably on the urgent and epic ‘Comeback Kid’. The synth’s otherworldly pulse wouldn’t feel amiss on Stranger Things, especially on the eerie track ‘Jupiter 4’ which shares its title with the instrument.

Of course, motherhood means that there’s also hope and brightness in the record. ‘Malibu’ is a love-soaked ode to her partner in crime who she rides around the city in “a red car that doesn’t belong to you”, a man who she’ll watch clean the floor whilst pondering “I thought I couldn't love him any more.” This impassioned track is followed by the surprising highlight “You Shadow”, a contrast to the former but a track that brilliant touches upon the subject of a lover whose desperate to imitate you, to impress you.

All of these elements come together perfectly in concluding track ‘Stay’, a touching tribute to her new child. Almost like a lullaby in its structure, Van Etten sings about her new found discovery of the everlasting bond between a mother and their child. It's a beautiful moment, straight from her heart and feels like a neat bow that ties the cohesive record together.

‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ is the Van Etten you know but also a woman that is completely different. Just like any new mother, she’s the same person but now her perspective and outlook on life has been greatly expanded. In life and in her music, moving forward the possibilities are endless and I can't wait to see what's next.