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Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow — a swerve into electronic sound

Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow — a swerve into electronic sound

January 11
21:41 2019
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Lots of songwriters describe writing as a form of therapy, among them Sharon Van Etten. The New York-based musician does not use the term as glibly as many of her peers: she is currently balancing her music career (and a diversion into acting in Netflix series The OA) with a psychology degree. Now 37, she wants to be a therapist by the time she is 50.

For now, there are still songs to release. Remind Me Tomorrow is her fifth studio album, and it arrives a decade after her first for a record label, Because I Was in Love. Its acoustic sound and tales of abusive relationships shepherded her into the vague domain of “indie-folk”, a catch-all term for any singer-songwriter with an earnest outlook, a passing acquaintance with Americana and a troubled episode of heartbreak to work through.

Since then she has built up an impressive level of critical kudos and a decent-sized audience. Her albums have grown less indie-folk-like over time, a process culminating in the sonic swerve presented by Remind Me Tomorrow. Opening track “I Told You Everything” announces the change with sombre piano chords (a characteristic effect) that are shadowed and then overwhelmed by an electronic drone — the sound of a newly acquired set of synthesisers.

The change is well-worked. Van Etten still tends to sing in a slow, contemplative style but the ponderous tempo into which she could lapse musically in the past has been lifted by solid computerised beats and chunky synth riffs. Meanwhile the difficult emotional terrain of her older songs remains, but at a remove.

“Comeback Kid” is about a confused young person suffering a crisis of belonging. “I was somewhat like him,” Van Etten sings, a sympathetic observer rather than the confessional subject of the song. “Seventeen” evokes vanished youth with unexpectedly anthemic echoes of Bruce Springsteen (Van Etten shares his New Jersey background). The sense of progression is welcome, albeit at the cost of the catharsis that admirers sought in her previous work.

★★★☆☆

Remind Me Tomorrow’ is released by Jagjaguwar



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