Sharon Van Etten's Remind Me Tomorrow: What You Need To Know
Sharon Van Etten's path to critical and commercial success has been a long one, with more than half a dozen self-released albums under her belt by the time her 'proper' debut album Because I Was In Love arrived in 2009. Consisting almost entirely of acoustic guitar and vocals, her debut was by no means a huge commercial hit, but Van Etten's understated style won her plenty of admirers among critics and fellow musicians, earning comparisons folk music's legendary quiet man Nick Drake.
Two more albums in a similar vein followed in 2010 and 2012, but it was Van Etten's fourth album Are We There that really put the New Jersey-born singer-songwriter on the map, scoring her biggest hit yet with 'Every Time the Sun Comes Up' and reaching No.25 on the Billboard 200. At the same time, Van Etten has also been working on a budding acting career, landing a key role in Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij's mystery drama series The OA.
Since the 2014 release of Are We There, Van Etten has been taking her time over a follow-up, tiding fans over in the meantime with a remixed, reissued version of her debut album in 2017. Then in October last year, Van Etten finally unveiled 'Comeback Kid', the first song taken from her upcoming fifth album Remind Me Tomorrow, which is released today. Here's everything you need to know...
A little background...
Despite the success of Are We There, the personal nature of the songs apparently made the resulting tour a bit of a gruelling exercise for Van Etten. When she decided to take a break, the last thing on her mind was a new album; the singer wanted to go back to school to study psychology, then got invited to audition for The OA, then became pregnant with her first child. Against all of this, music had taken a back seat for the time being: “I definitely wasn't retiring, I just didn't have a plan” Van Etten said in a recent interview. “In 2017, I was looking through my computer because I felt like being creative, and I released that I had written over 40 songs during that time, somehow.”
Who's producing it?
Van Etten is co-producing the album herself along with John Congleton, whose extensive list of production credits includes work for the likes of St. Vincent, John Grant, Goldfrapp and Blondie, to name a handful.
Any special guests?
Not in terms of featured appearances, but there are plenty of guest contributors to the album, including Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart, Midlake's McKenzie Smith, The Last Shadow Puppets bassist Zachary Dawes and Atoms For Peace drummer Joey Waronker.
What does it sound like?
Where her first couple of albums consisted almost exclusively of acoustic guitars and Van Etten's trademark layered, dreamy vocals, on later LPs such as Tramp and Are We There there were tentative steps towards expanding that sound, augmenting it with the occasional piano or drum machine.
On Remind Me Tomorrow, those tentative steps have become full-blown strides, with songs like 'Comeback Kid' and 'Seventeen' offering something much more upbeat than her previous work. There's still plenty of that trademark darkness though; the ethereal 'Memorial Day' might be the most experimental track Van Etten has released to date, while other moments on the album such as the stuttering stomp of 'You Shadow' and the anthemic fuzz of 'Hands' are indicative of a much more expansive approach to creating different sonic textures.
Does it deliver?
Van Etten's sound has been gradually evolving over the last three albums and Remind Me Tomorrow feels like the biggest leap yet. There's still that undercurrent of darkness and the lyrics still feel intensely personal and raw, but there's an air of confidence and defiance here that combines with an expanded sonic palette to make the new album her best yet.