Music Reviews
Remind Me Tomorrow

Sharon Van Etten Remind Me Tomorrow

(Jagjaguwar) Rating - 10/10

Ever since she released her debut, Sharon Van Etten has evolved from album to album, her music and lyrics changing alongside her. Now, after a five-year musical hiatus, during which she acted, scored a film, went back to school and had a child, she’s returned with Remind Me Tomorrow. It’s her grandest and greatest evolution yet.

Van Etten spent part of her time away studying to be a therapist, leading to questions about the importance and impact of one’s past. These questions permeate in Remind Me Tomorrow, with her history coming up against the person she is today. On her previous records, it felt like her traumatic past in an abusive relationship was a raw wound that she reopened with each song. Now, with the perspective and hindsight that only time can provide, Van Etten can look at those terrible moments with some distance, exploring how much she’s grown in the intervening years.

That reflection is immediate from the first song. I Told You Everything could be a note to a lover, a friend or her audience, divulging the trauma she went through. Over heavy piano chords, she keeps her lyrics firmly in the present, the relief in confession taking precedence over the story itself. The track feels like a recap of Van Etten’s first four albums, both in tone and instrumentation. But the next two songs burst out in wonderfully unexpected ways, redefining what Van Etten’s work could sound like. Displaying her love of post-punk, Nick Cave and Suicide, No One’s Easy To Love lurches forward with an industrial groove and metallic beat. Memorial Day is a smoky torch song with a sly, repeating a vocal melody that builds to stunningly ascendant singing.

The changes in Van Etten’s life are reflected on two of the strongest singles she’s ever written. Over the synth-heavy stomp of Comeback Kid, she sees her own life mirrored in the eyes of others. “Kid at the top of our street/I was somewhat like him, I was somebody,” she sings as the music propels forward. The powerful rhythms and synths of Seventeen would fit perfectly on Born in the USA, with Van Etten looking back at her time in New York City as a teenager. As she thinks about her younger self and all the good and bad in front of her, Van Etten gives an all-time great vocal performance, screaming out “I know that you're gonna be/You'll crumble it up just to see/Afraid that you'll be just like me.”

Van Etten still writes about her relationships better than anyone, this time centered mainly on her current partner. Malibu is about the dedication that two people can have towards each other, where the simple act of cleaning the bathroom floor reaffirms that love. Over the spacey atmospherics of Jupiter 4, she finds serenity in “a love so real.” Even when there are bumps in relationships, Van Etten sees them as learning moments. On You Shadow, over organ keys and brass squawks, she tells a person who’s trying to earn her love through mimicry to instead “Use loving words and be gentle and kind/Open your mind and it's easy to find where I am.”

Remind Me Tomorrow concludes with Stay, a song about the eternal dedication that she has towards her young son. Over skittering production and luminous keys, she sings “I’m gonna stay, you’re gonna stay, we’re here for each other even when it gets hard.” It’s a beautiful note to close out Van Etten’s best work yet, at the start of this new chapter in her life. On an album where Van Etten painted a through line from her past to her present, she ends by looking hopefully towards the future. [Believe the Hype]