The Sharon Van Etten of Remind Me Tomorrow is different. She’s not the person you met before. Remind Me is a change. But having said all that it’s no reinvention. She’s not out of character, just walking with swagger. Something which was always there given accent.
While Etten’s previous bests lay in her maudlin moments, her fatalism and confessional lyrics, these new songs buzz with a higher energy. No more so than with ‘Comeback Kid’. The song peddles simple sentiment and carries a triumphant tone. But what really sells it is that she’s singing the hell out of it.
Remind Me is bolder. ‘Jupiter Four’ packs aggression, ‘Seventeen’ spills forth with a fist pumping rhythm and jukebox charm. It channels a kind of working-class paranoia you might expect from Springsteen at his best.
“You’re just seventeen
So much like me”
Or is it a little more Bob Seger? Either or, she still feels every bit that downtown hotshot and the formula is straightforward: Simple lyrics, a good backbeat and a slick melody.
These are Etten’s most pop-oriented moments to date. But is Etten as the rock-pop star perhaps a little more transient, and of-the-moment than smoldering and dark storyteller that ruminated before? Sure. But as the album’s title even seems to suggest this is about throwing consequence to the wind and taking things in the now. Considering two records ago she was singing about striking cigarettes and walking away from tattered relationships, maybe it was time for a little flash.
Sharon Van Etten is endlessly profiled and the leadup to this album was no different. If you read any of these glowing reports them, you would probably be left with the impression that she’s been busy. Study and motherhood have occupied her life as much as music, but she’s been juggling it all. And maybe that’s where this fifth record springs, the heroic feeling of taking a long-shot gamble and pulling off, everything, all at once. It's the sensation of embracing the swell of an upward turn and then climbing the mountain, not giving a f***k.
Where others like Etten could have fallen flat on their faces with such stylistic pivots Remind Me's key singles pack punch. It’s a winning moment, one which suggests that while it's the dark feelings of bleak and somber grandeur which often fuel her finest songs there’s more that she can do. This music is poppy – poppier than it’s ever been – but she’s singing it rock ‘n’ roll, with roughness and a bleeding heart. When Etten throws that out with a bit of chutzpah there’s a lightness to compliment her dark shades.
On ‘Every Time The Sun Comes Up’ Sharon sang, “People say I’m a one hit wonder but what happens when I have two?” Remind Me reveals she wasn’t putting forward the question in the abstract but statting her intention. Now she’s making good on the ambition.
Words by Riley Fitzgerald