Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow review

Secret Meeting score: 80

by Philip Moss

Sharon Van Etten’s last album, 2014’s Are We There, exposed the New Jersey native to her widest audiences yet – garnering unanimous critical acclaim and prompting sold out world tours – through its slow build nature, which allowed it to gently weave itself under your skin. Yet at the conclusion of the album cycle, Van Etten disappeared into suburbia – she returned to college, began training for a career in therapy,  accepted a role in Netflix show, The OA, and mothered her first child. So what impact have the intervening four years had on her new long player, Remind Me Tomorrow?

No One’s Easy To Love’s semantic phrasings offer the closest melodic cousins to those we became accustomed to and grew to love on Are We There. But musically, its shift is enormous – as deformed synths grind against her voice. And this is perhaps typified most by Comeback Kid, which is by far the most immediate offering – sexing up Reflektor-era Arcade Fire as it stomps to its refrained chorus.

The lead single is not the only track that wears its influences proudly on its sleeve. Seventeen – arguably the record’s most fully realised example of Van Etten’s new direction – feels in debt to Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love, as muscular drum machines pin down a roaring synth bed. While Malibu mashes up early Lana Del Rey and last year’s US Girls’ album, In A Poem Unlimited, on the record’s most overt pop moment.

Throughout, Remind Me Tomorrow is musically brash and confident, but at times lacks the subtle nuance found in her back catalogue- Hands is a strutting slab of glam slop that hangs on a weak, throwaway chorus, but is layered with ‘throw the kitchen sink at it’ production from John Congleton (David Byrne, Angel Olsen) that is reminiscent of his work on St Vincent’s MASSEDUCTION.

At its best, Remind Me Tomorrow feels like a glorious mix tape – but in heading so firmly into such synth heavy territory, one is left questioning: has her songwriting been negotiated to ensure immediacy?

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