Release Date: Jan 18, 2019
Record label: Jagjaguwar
Download | Listen via Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Play | Radio Public | Stitcher | RSS The Lowdown: It’s been nearly five years since the pastoral sounds of Are We There, Sharon Van Etten's fourth studio album that further solidified the singer-songwriter’s place in the alternative rock canon. Yet, it also presented an artist in transition, one who was still willing to admit she’s lost in the dark, be it romantically, spiritually, or creatively. So, it’s not surprising in the slightest that she spent so long journeying elsewhere, be it universities, motherhood, or even the dark confines of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.
‘Hook them in, right from the beginning’. It’s one of the unwritten laws of great art. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. Ewan McGregor’s feet pounding the Edinburgh streets as Iggy Pop‘s Lust For Life plays. Kurt Cobain‘s guitar ….
For a decade, Sharon Van Etten specialized in understatement. From her 2009 debut Because I Was in Love through 2014's Are We There, she mined the tension generated by murmuring instrumentation clashing with her passionate delivery, a balance that proved quietly compelling. Van Etten maintains that sense of drama on Remind Me Tomorrow, her fifth full-length album, but she's radically shifted her presentation.
Her most extrovert, lean and unabashedly gothic record yet, Remind Me Tomorrow is a widescreen exploration of the horrors of living, a larger canvas for her to paint her very own 'Guernica'. You can tell she's having fun playing with a wider range of toys in a bigger sandbox, with John Congleton as her partner in crime - despite it being a hideously, almost comically dark record, it's actually a lot of fun, and a noticeable artistic progression. Hearing the jump between previous record Are We There (itself a minor masterpiece) and this one is staggering - Van Etten seems to be firing on all metaphorical cylinders here, all the way through: 2019 is to Sharon Van Etten what 1901 was to Gustav Klimt: the year an already-magnificent artist reached the peak of their powers.
It's been five long, eventful years since Sharon Van Etten put out her magnificent, troubling, infinitely gorgeous Are We There, during which time the Brooklyn troubadour has ventured into both motherhood and television acting, while we've patiently waited for album number five from one of the more important songwriters and performers of the 21st century. Remind Me Tomorrow was trailed by a magnificent, crazy-sad single "Comeback Kid" and it is around this stunning track that the album revolves. A strident stadium-ready anthem that shirks any pretence of Indie Guitar Rock(c), the darkness engendered by Van Etten's low-slung vocals and the arrangements of John Congleton (St.
Sharon Van Etten returns at the time of year meant for streamlining: Kondo-ing your frazzled mind, dysfunctional relationships, and sloppy habits into one efficient machine. Remind Me Tomorrow is not a product of this mindset. Just look at the mess on the cover: a tiny photograph of Van Etten barely visible amid the chaos of a kid's bedroom. It's an album made after she thought she had let music go for a while, until it crept back in as a reliable constant while she started acting and scoring films, studied for a degree in psychology, embraced a fulfilling relationship, and became a parent.
delusions of candor Every now and then I open messenger to an offhand observation or inconsequential inquiry from a friend I haven't seen since high school. A "have you seen x recently"" unfurls into a discussion that, in hindsight, has picked up from some indeterminate point in time - not the beginning, not the end, but a spot that constantly shifts across two intertwined timelines. It's a weird feeling, to converse with someone as if you've not been separated by a chasm that's at least three years wide, and it evokes a dissonance in me: on the one hand I yearn for that part of my life back -- the one shackled by rigid routine and allocated social periods, and on the other, I can't even imagine being anyone other than the person I am now.
Remind Me Tomorrow is Sharon Van Etten gone widescreen. It's been a long time coming. While the likes of 'Give Out' on Tramp all the way back in 2012 flirted with anthem status, Van Etten has long shied away from allowing her achingly personal tales to grow too universal. If anything, 2014's often brilliant, nearly always searing Are We There retreated further still into the recesses of her mind, the singer-songwriter seeming to abandon any pretense of bumping her name up festival lineups.
The New Jersey songwriter flips the script with an electrifying pop album with plenty of heart. Don't call it a comeback - but this is Van Etten's most immediate work to date In October, Sharon Van Etten released her first new song in almost five years. 'Comeback Kid' a thumping slice of electro-pop, coincided with the announcement that she didn't want the single and her fifth album, 'Remind Me Tomorrow', "to be pretty".
Sharon Van Etten's fifth record begins in much the same way as her fourth did. As she recounts a dramatic, late-night confession to an acquaintance on 'I Told You Everything' - "you said, "holy shit, we almost died, I had no idea" - she deliberately invokes the piano-led sparsity of 2014’s 'Are We There' as she hints that she's about to be similarly forthright with the listener over the course of the following nine tracks. What happens next is that, with real flourish, she both delivers on that promise and pulls the rug out from beneath our feet.
It's hard not to like Sharon van Etten. The New Jersey-born singer-songwriter exudes a very natural, laidback kind of charm, both on stage and on record. It's not everyone that could get away with closing a frequently heart-wrenching album like 2014's Are We There with a song that featured a memorable line about the intimacy of taking a shit in one's partner's bathroom.
Rating: NNNNN When Sharon Van Etten sigh-sings to herself, "I wish I could show how much you've grown," I can't help but feel a similar stinging loss for who I used to be. When you listen to the track, Seventeen, and hear how her wisdom and grace extends to a fraught past self, it's hard to not place yourself there and think of the versions that no longer exist. And to be tender.
Assume Form by James Blake: love songs from the cold. (Polydor) Hushed, expressive vocal performances have become increasingly key to James Blake’s art, just as his signature sound, his cold, sculptural minimalism, has become rote in the time of Drake. Assume Form, despite the handsome ghost-of-a-smile on the LP sleeve, doesn’t introduce a more colorful palette for Blake.
For four albums and an EP, Sharon van Etten has wrestled with trauma, twining her lovely voice around brutal narratives of betrayal. Now with Remind Me Tomorrow, the singer seems to have turned the corner. Five years ago, the big reveal in a New York Times profile was Aaron Dessner surmising that Van Etten was probably living out of her car. This time around, another extensive interview reports that she's in a solid, mutually supportive relationship, she has a two-year-old and she's up for another season of the OA on Netflix.
Sharon Van Etten took a break after her 2014 album, "Are We There," which tied together many of the themes that dominated the first phase of her career. In a series of mostly guitar-based albums, Van Etten offered unflinching portrayals of turbulent, ultimately toxic relationships that couldn't help but leave any empathetic listener, let alone the narrator, deeply shaken. "Remind me Tomorrow" (Jagjaguwar) follows a hiatus that included college, acting, marriage, motherhood.
"Sitting at the bar I told you everything / You said, 'Holy shit, you almost died. '" So begins the latest release from Sharon Van Etten. It's a dramatic piece of dialogue that immediately lets the listener know two things about her fifth album: firstly, she is no longer interested in talking about herself and so we shouldn't expect any of the cathartic self-reflection of 'Are We There' and 'Tramp' here, and, secondly, there's no need to worry about this, because she can spin a hell of a yarn.
L ike all of Sharon Van Etten's previous albums, 2014's Are We There was preoccupied by a prior toxic relationship - co-dependency couched in a sour combination of abuse and affection. Its follow-up opens with a track that references that period of disquieting soul-baring in the form of a meta-confessional: I Told You Everything has Van Etten divulging the details of her traumatic past to a sympathetic new partner, but not the listener. It's a move that acknowledges the musician's suffering but also inches the story forward, hinting that the New Jersey native has a different life now (a suggestion confirmed by her hectic-sounding recent biography: over the past four years she has had a child, taken up acting and started studying for a degree in counselling).