Album of the Week: Sharon Van Etten, 'Remind Me Tomorrow'


Sharon Van Etten, 'Remind Me Tomorrow'
Sharon Van Etten, 'Remind Me Tomorrow' (Jagjaguwar)

Love is a horrible, wonderful, tragic, and hopeful thing. In Sharon Van Etten's latest album, Remind Me Tomorrow, her empathy overflows as she tries to explain a love story in all its hideous beauty.

At times frightening and turgid with tension, this is not the Sharon Van Etten that so plaintively wore her heart on her sleeve in her 2009 debut album, Beacuse I was In Love. In fact, this album wasn't supposed to happen. Van Etten had wanted a break from music and was planning on going back to school to get a degree in psychology (inspired by how much she enjoyed talking to fans after her shows about their various traumas). That plan was pushed back when she was scouted at a concert and asked to audition for what would be her first acting job, for the television show The OA. Then, she had to make a pitstop in Twin Peaks, because who on Earth would say no to David Lynch. Followed by a film score she was putting together - oh - and she fell in love and had her first child. In the midst of all this, Van Etten found herself turning, yet again, to music as her outlet and self care. She created hundreds of songs, including the ten that became Remind Me Tomorrow.

With the wealth of new life experience, and inspired by some time on the road with Nick Cave, Van Etten wanted to put together a series of love letters to her partner and father of her child. She wanted to explain love in the ways it really felt. This translates to songs that pulse with the anticipation of holding hands, the stomach drop of realizing you love someone, the tension in your throat that doesn't want to say the words out loud, the shiver along your spine that says maybe this is real. It's exhausting. It's raw. And it's beautiful.

It all starts with "I Told You Everything", set at a bar where secrets are told in a clean, piano driven kicker, then moves like an animal in its cage to a dark song that contemplates loving again after terrible exes ("No One's Easy To Love"). There are some dark dirges ("Memorial" and "Jupiter 4") that sound like a goth Kate Bush. A Springsteen-esque song allows Van Etten to scream at her own shadow ("Seventeen"). And even the sweetest song, "Malibu", has to balance the cloy contrasting wistful lyrics ("Black Crows playing as you clean the floor/I thought I couldn't love him any more") with eerie simmering synths.

Remind Me Tomorrow showcases the multi-talented Van Etten in all her glory. She's able to not only craft lyrics that cut to the bone, but also build a sonic world that makes you feel those shivers, clenches, and goosebumps. She may be moving on to finish getting that degree, but this album shows that she already has a keen grasp of what makes us tick.

Van Etten hits the stage at First Avenue in Minneapolis on February 16.


Sharon Van Etten - Official Site

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