ALBUM RELEASE: Sharon Van Etten – ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’
WORDS BY MARIA PASSINGHAM
Sharon Van Etten’s new album ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ makes me wish I were going through a breakup. The soul-baring, straightforward lyrics paired with the brooding bass drone that forms the first 90 seconds of album opener ‘I Told You Everything’ give you the perfect excuse to crawl into bed and pull the duvet over your head; block out the world and dwell on heartache.
The following sparse bendy guitars and the unpredictable trio of notes (what is that, is it a guitar? a piano? an electronic, engineered noise?) scattered throughout provide those moments of wonky beauty that most of us first learned with ‘Every Time The Sun Comes Up’ (off 2014’s ‘Are We There’). With this latest album Van Etten will take your happy memories and twist them up with sadness, and you’ll gladly let her.
Like a perfect prose poem, Van Etten makes sure every sound is absolutely necessary, leaving plenty of ethereal space, so that when the propelling drums and screeching guitars of single ‘Comeback Kid’ launch you feel the full weight of their impact. The intro to that track by the way, still reminding me of the opening to ‘Something About You’ by Lucius, anyone else?
My personal favourite is the glorious ‘Seventeen’. First, it’s not often these days you hear a fade-in on a record. It’s the equivalent of a long zoom in from a far-out establishing shot at the start of a film: it takes you right to the center of the action without you realising how you got there. The action in this case? The driving drums that relentlessly underpin this anthem.
Second, those drums. Particularly paired with the echoing, wailing guitars, my mind immediately leaped to the best of The War on Drugs, which isn’t really surprising given Van Etten’s friendship and past work with Adam Granduciel. Providing a perfect base for layers to build and fall over the course of the song, the constantly-moving-forward drums provide the perfect contrast to the backward-facing nostalgia of the lyrics.
Third, I feel as though we haven’t often heard Van Etten break. Her signature vocal style is low-key – a beautiful elastic drawl – but here she allows herself a moment of unrestrained punk, full throttle, too-much-sincerity-for-karaoke singing, taking us all by surprise and amping up the earnest impact of the song. Other highlights include the drone-filled, ghostly, Suuns-esque ‘Memorial Day’, and ‘You Shadow’, which harks back to the simple and beautiful tracks from ‘Are We There’.
I’ll be honest with you, the first two times I listened to ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ I wasn’t enthralled. It was a background to working, cooking, cleaning music. But the third time I took an old-fashioned leaf out of Van Etten’s book. I sat down, headphones on, no distractions, and listened. This is an album to listen to, pay attention to the careful layering of sounds, lose yourself in her nostalgic narratives, and, if you need to have a good cry over your ex, it wouldn’t be bad for that either.