Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow

Rating: ★★★½☆

Of all the solo-powerhouses in the indie rock / folk world, few have resonated with me quite as much as the work of Sharon Van Etten. At this point, I’m sure you’re quite familiar with her story: small time broody indie-nobody quietly releases album after album of her own unique brand of raw and powerful music that sits well with fans of The National, Bon Iver, Beirut. Oddly enough, these incredible records like 2014’sAre We There,and 2012’s Trampfailed to push Van Etten into the main fray of the indie world. Cut to 2019: she’s on billboards in NYC, playing Jimmy Kimmel, and pretty much every music publication under the face of the sun is talking about Sharon.

The first thing I noticed at her ACL Festival performance back in October, at which she played a few of the tracks from her new record, is that the guitar was missing. While these tracks–what I came to find out would be the singles for this release–came with a hard bite, the meat of most of the songs were heavy synths played by the inimitable Heather Woods Broderick. We got a bit of a taste of this direction onAre We There,though it was always countered with guitar, be it acoustic or electric. Singles “Comeback Kid,” “Jupiter 4,” and “Seventeen,” as they were released all confirmed this synthy-almost-pop approach, but Van Etten’s sulky vocals kept them grounded in her classic style. On “Comeback Kid,” we have big drums, wailing synths, and Van Etten’s voice as commanding as we’ve ever seen it. “Seventeen” sees her downright screaming, whereas “Jupiter 4” seemingly brings us back to the kind of track we’ve come to expect from Van Etten.

Each of these songs, and the whole record for the most part is a look back on past. This perspective shines brightest in the leaps SVE takes on “Jupiter 4” and “You Shadow.” The former is seeping with desperation and longing to be loved and the insane anticipation of stumbling into something good: “It’s true, that everyone would like to have met / a love so real.” The track a gorgeous love song–though it’s heavy in atmospheric synth, you get a little bit of guitar cutting in, but Van Etten’s vocals take the center. This song is a leap: like most SVE tracks, it’s rooted in this slow pace that seems ominous, but the lyrics are some of the most heart-warming we’ve ever heard from her. She confesses this love continues to move her now: “Turning the wheel on my street / my heart still skips a beat.” This song is a sincere and steadfast confession of being moved by the power of loving someone else, which is a feat to accomplish without sounding corny or trite.

“You Shadow” comes later on and takes the approach of a sing-song-y taunt you’d expect to hear in an argument between teenagers; it’s actually probably the most ‘pop’ track we’ve ever heard from SVE and it’s infectious. Though simple, the song’s melody gets wedged in to your head. The crunchy sounds are juxtaposed well by lighter, bouncy keys. The whole number has this laid back groove to it, but the casualness of the beat and the smooth delivery from Van Etten is contrasted highly in the bridge, where we get the sweeping power vocals once more. It’s a weird combination, but the result doubles down on the strength of the words Van Etten jeers: “You ain’t nothing / You never won.” One moment she’s telling us a story from the perspective of someone emotionally removed, bitter. Next in the bridge, she’s right back in the moment, spilling with emotions and raw anger.

SVE made a lot of bold sonic changes onRemind Me Tomorrow and the two tracks I described were examples of these choices paying off in a big way, but the rest of the album doesn’t always offer that same kind of payoff. I find myself not quite connecting with every song as I’d like to, and as I have in the past. Don’t get me wrong, in the end,Remind MeTomorrowis a good record, but it pales in comparison to her past two albums both in songwriting strength, and in musicality. Sharon Van Etten is immensely talented and well-deserving of the moment she’s having, but this record feels less vulnerable, which is what I’ve always found to be a ridiculously compelling factor (if not the most compelling factor) of her music. Oddly enough, though the sound is bigger than she’s ever done before, Van Etten is emotionally guarded behind those buzzing synths.

Perhaps with revisited listening the guard will come down, Remind Me (to listen again) Tomorrow.




More Sharon Van Etten?!

sharonIt’s no secret that I love Sharon Van Etten and everything she does, so when I saw that she had more new music so quickly after last year’s stunning Are We There, I couldn’t wait to share it with you. “I Don’t Want t0 Let You Down,” runs along the same tone that she set on her last album, but with a bit more straightforward rock and roll that we’ve know Sharon to dabble in before. Her vocals are all power in their husky deepness and in the choral arc she really hits you with emotion– the track is simple and straightforward, but a delight to listen to.

Double Show Review: Sharon Van Etten/ Allo Darlin’ @ The Mohawk 10/18

The MohawkSaturday night was a busy night at The Mohawk for tunes, but one that worked out quite nicely for those interested in both main acts. Outside featured the emotional force of Sharon Van Etten, riding high off the release of her latest stunning album Are We There, which came out earlier this year. Inside had Allo Darlin’ doing the same—their new record, We Come From The Same Place, just released last week. The combination of these acts provided a nice balance of heavy and light to the night, both groups giving out their own take on catharsis.

Read more about how the night unfolded and see some stunning pictures from B.Gray after the jump.

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Sharon Van Etten – Are We There

arewethere.lpoutRating: ★★★★½

Though Sharon Van Etten is on her fourth full-length debut, it wasn’t really until 2012’s release of Tramp that shot her dramatic and elegant sound into the limelight of the indie rock world. However, Tramp displayed a trip in a semi-folk rock direction, with some stand out tracks like “Magic Chords” and “Serpents” that put some rock-n-roll punch behind the already powerful lyrics of Etten. This time around Are We There seems to step back from this rockier style and lets the poignancies of the lyrics take center stage.

Though Are We There is far from devoid of the subtle soft rock that Sharon Van Etten and company always seem to bring to the table. Take “Your Love is Killing Me,” for example, as it is a perfect example of just what this songwriter is all about. The song opens with the delicacy you’ve been familiarized with, but slowly builds to this complex and arching aching beauty of a song. Some dark and violent imagery catches your ear as Sharon sings “break my legs so I won’t walk to you/cut my tongue so I can’t talk to you.” None of this, not even for a second, though vastly dramatic when removed from its context comes across as melodramatic or insincere. Rather, its musical accompaniment of ragtime-y piano, slow rolling drums, and distantly angled guitars generate a raw realness that is impossible to ignore. It pulls at your emotions and translates the emotional pain that is described in the song as it builds to its slow, orchestral climax.

While I highlight some tracks in this review, you should know that the worth of this release isn’t simply centered on these tracks, but rather all of the tracks; they intermingle and play upon each other without becoming redundant or running together. The distinction comes from the addition or subtraction of instruments while the songwriting runs deeply through the whole thing. I could go on about the beauty of each song, but you should discover that for yourselves.

The album closes with the beautiful and honest “Every Time the Sun Comes Up—” a single that, if you’ve been paying attention, should have already heard, but by no means does this attract from its beauty. It’s not as heavy as the other tracks, but on the catchy side and you’ll want to sing along with the bluesy vocals. The little bit of playful audio left in the mix at the very end of the Are We There seals the record with a personal kiss of lightness; a touch of a reminder that though Sharon Van Etten writes and records pretty somber tunes, she isn’t lost in the darkness. All in all the album comes across as the most intimate and impassioned record from this artist thus far, so go get lost in the sadness for a little while.


Brand New Sharon Van Etten Music

sharon_van_etten_1332170904_crop_550x366We’re getting closer to the release date of the new Sharon Van Etten album, Are We There.  It’s one of the most anticipated records, at least over here at the ATH offices.  I mean, can one top Tramp, which was a nearly perfect album?  Based on this track, it looks like she might be ready to take a good go at topping her previous work.  Her guitar work sounds pretty solid here, backed by little bits of piano touches and the strength of her memorable voice. You’ll be able to hear her new collection of songs when Jagjaguwar releases the album on May 27th.

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