Sharon Van Etten was teleported to our time from the late 70s by a synth rock goddess. Her music blends elements of Post-Punk angst and early Goth Rock. Her vocals carry a mysticism and vibrato reminiscent of Stevie Nicks. And yet, once all ingredients of Sharon Van Etten’s music are added up, she sounds decidedly modern. She has a way of dropping her heart into her voice when she sings. Her voice tells a story; a story that’s just as tragic as it is cathartic. Van Etten is a master of dark and emotional Synth Pop and Remind Me Tomorrow is her best album yet.
Nostalgia and the acknowledgement of a painful past is a recurring theme throughout the songs of this album. “I Told You Everything” conjures the moment of recounting a harrowing experience to a friend. The trust being expressed, the fear of whether one’s personal narrative will be accepted or ridiculed. Everything hangs in the balance. Anything could happen. Moments away from either disaster or fortune, is what happens fate or happenstance? She sings the line “You said, “Holy shit, you almost died'” several times. Being so emotionally vulnerable can push people away or knit them closer together. For her, sharing her experiences of abuse was the beginning of a stronger relationship.
The brooding love song, “Jupiter 4” is a slow orbit around the object of her love, the same person she dropped her guard to in “I Told You Everything.” The lilting “baby, baby, baby” she projects repeatedly is as passionate as it can be. “It’s true that everyone would like to have met a love so real,” she sings in the chorus. There is no doubt she means every word.
“No One’s Easy to Love” and “Memorial Day” ruminate on the experiences that shaped who she is as a person. While they’re not always good memories, they are inseparable from her identity as an artist. This is a theme that “Seventeen” completes with absolution and peace. “Seventeen” is a letter to her younger self. All the things she would tell her seventeen-year-old self if she could; things she would warn her about, things she would reassure her about. This song brings a perspective of acceptance and peace at the trials she experienced in her twenties.
The production on this album was expertly done by John Congleton who has worked with St. Vincent, Explosions in the Sky, Angel Olsen, and many more. Leaning heavily on synths and drums, this is not a rehashing of Van Etten’s old sound, nor is it a copycat of other artists Congleton has produced. Together, Van Etten and Congleton have made a new original sound. The deep and resonating chords mixed with electric droning complements the heavy content of the lyrics, and Van Etten’s voice is as heart-rending as ever. When she projects her voice to its fullest, she holds her listener’s heart in her hands. It may be too early in the year to say, but this may easily end up being one of my favorite albums of the year.