Whether it be the stirring melodies, the moody synths, or her intoxicating bellows of pain and triumph, ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ shows that Sharon Van Etten is a musician nonpareil, crafting an album that exudes excellence with every note hit and sung.
Back in October of 2018, Sharon Van Etten gave listeners a glimpse into the new direction she was heading in with “Comeback Kid.” With synth-laced melodies, the track creates this thrilling and pulsing experience that left many in eager anticipation for her new material. What listeners received with Remind Me Tomorrow (released January 18, 2019 via Jagjaguwar) was an introspective and inter-personal exploration that evolved Van Etten’s sound to a whole new tier of gorgeous musicality, exceeding all expectations in a wild and daring fashion.
This evolution was not born out of nothingness. Since the release of her previous album, Are We There, five years ago, Van Etten has seen many personal triumphs and changes. Within those five years, she began acting, went back to school for a degree in mental health counseling, scored a film, and became a mother. These moments marked the catalyst for the new-found sonic intensity that is present throughout the album. Gone are the days of the acoustic singer-songwriter; Sharon Van Etten establishes herself as a roaring hallmark in the music scene.
Listen: ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ – Sharon Van Etten
The album begins with “I Told You Everything,” and upon first glance, listeners would easily imagine an album of doleful and sorrowful tracks that fans have experienced in the past with lyrics such as “Sitting at the bar, I told you everything. You said, ‘Holy shit, you almost died,” sung over soft plucks of the piano. But as soon as the percussion hits, the track transforms into a new being, providing a clear indication of what is to come.
A wave of synths and electronic melodies soon swarm and enchant listeners with “No One’s Easy to Love,” providing a stark contrast to the previous track’s slow build and subdued and, at times, menacing beats. “Too much has changed, I can’t let you walk in in the night. I wish away my love, leave with the dawn,” she decries, further showcasing the themes of letting go, love, and of allowing one’s self to invite others in. Because although the pain of experiencing loss, enduring and growing from it, is important, letting go of negativity or grudges and moving on with a positive outlook is just as important, if not more so.
As the album moves forward, the first single, “Comeback Kid” returns with its rousing and assertive sound. It’s a ballad of triumph in which Van Etten explores her younger more formative years. The accompanying music video is a smart pairing full of strobing lights and images from previous moments in her career. With “Jupiter 4,” those enamoring smoky vocals, with hints of a gorgeous falsetto, make a much-desired return, providing the album with its most raw track.
On previous tracks, the synths were used to excite and lead the melody, here they coil and snake around listeners, creating an intoxicating aura that is wildly addicting. It’s dark, haunting, and procures this insatiable sense of desire for more. The music video captures this very essence with complete perfection, not missing a single detail. The video is swirling yet meditative, almost as if it’s a glimpse into Van Etten’s own psyche.
“Seventeen” steps out of that darkness for a moment with one of the most personal tracks on the album while also serving as a moving love letter to New York City. It’s an exploration of self as Van Etten explores her upbringing and past, going through various stages of her while talking to her younger self. It’s towards the end where she unleashes an outcry of the heart. “You’ll crumble it up just to see, afraid that you’ll be just like me.” It’s an explosive finale that leaves listeners shaking, producing one of the most memorable moments on the album.
The music video brings the best possible visual pairing with the current Van Etten following the younger, only seventeen, version of herself. The video is a tour guide through some of the most memorable spots in Brooklyn and beyond, and as viewers see seventeen-year-old Van Etten explore the city, one would be hard-pressed not to be glued to the story presented.
From here on out, the notches are turned down slightly. “Malibu” is a beautiful and surreal piano ballad that provides an impactful and emotional punch. “Hands” grabs that notch again but only turns it up a hair, providing an impassioned track filled with roaring guitars and melodic percussion beats that are interlaced with occasional electronic plunks. Van Etten then brings back the peace with “Stay,” allowing some breathing room as the final track gingerly wafts listeners back down.
Remind Me Tomorrow is a beguiling set of tracks that age better with each listen. It’s a courageous step into new territory, and Van Etten has excelled at imprinting her name on it. And yet, with all of the synths, bustling melodies, and distorted riffs, not a single ounce of humanity is lost, indicating that no matter what direction or venture she pursues, Van Etten will undoubtedly come out on top.
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📸 © Ryan Pfluger