Remind Me Tomorrow

"Sharon Van Etten"

May 13, 2019

Sharon Van Etten’s Successful Drift From Pure Indie Folk Towards Heavier Music

Written by @Soulbyweekly from SoulByweekly / 6 mins read

The American Indie-folk musician Sharon Van Etten has recently released her fifth studio album Remind Me Tomorrow on 18th January 2019, five years after her last album was released in 2014. This album is very different from her previous ones in terms of sound as some pop, jazz and rock elements have been added to her traditional indie-folk music style. Rather, some tracks make it sound more like a pop/rock music based album rather than a folk album. This album has been termed as one of her most evolutionary works by some critics. It has been overall intriguing with a sense of maturity being observed in music, vocals and lyrics. Heavy use of drums, electric guitars, synths and other ambient electronic instrumentation has been noticed, that takes the album to a next level as she has worked much on rock-oriented music. The music here is a blend of the traditional indie-folk and new-age rock elements. Some of the tracks are more emotionally appealing, like “Seventeen”, “Jupiter 4” and “Comeback Kid”. The album cover might look messy but is captivating if viewed closely, as it shows a childhood photograph of Van Etten amidst a mess of a child’s bedroom with toys scattered all around. The album is blended with overwhelming emotional feelings that include joys, struggles and anxious moments of life. There have been some Bruce Springsteen and Nick Cave influences observed other than 80s music. The album overall received more or less decent reviews from the music critics. The album was rated 4 out of 5 stars by The Guardian, 3.5 by Chicago Tribune and 8.4 out of 10 on Pitchfork. It received an aggregate score of 86 on Metacritic which is a pretty decent number, with all positive reviews from the professional music critics.

Calling Out To Her Younger Self

This song takes her back when she was a teenage girl living in New York City, and how her life and the city have changed since then. She was a grown up woman singing to her own self in the past. Some abstract elements in the video made it more attractive, where she in her present days and her seventeen years old semblance appeared multiple times together in the same frame to build a contrast and how she was trying to get back those memories in the ever-changing city and lifestyle. The music video also suggests that she recollected her teenage memories in New York. This idea can be generated by the fact that the video starts with Sharon visiting and travelling across the city watching how it has changed since she lived and grew up there. She had been living in an uncertainty about the future, but now she is a grown up woman with a well-settled life. Some old spots in the city were still there, while many have changed significantly. Internet sources suggest that Sharon, in an interview said that this song illustrates "the chain reaction, of moving to a city bright-eyed and hearing the elders complain about the city changing, and then being around long enough to know what they were talking about". Around 2:30 minutes in the music video, Sharon is seen observing her reflection in the window of a train, imagining her teenage appearance and how she did the same In those days. Use of electronic instruments and ambient score in the background makes it more pleasing to listen. Overall, the song is a beautiful portrayal of a teenage city girl living amidst ups and downs, hopes for the future and how her life has changed along with the city she lived in.

A Beautiful Love Ballad Mixed With Ambient Tunes

“Malibu” is one of the most beautiful tracks in the album. The track doesn’t come along with a video, yet the soft music played in major scale and the piano sounds with added ambient electronic sounds within the song makes it very pleasing to the ears. This is certainly an addition to the beautiful folk and country love ballads which the musicians have composed over the years. The tunes sound very familiar, yet every single note in the song can be felt and embraced. It speaks of a road trip in a little red car with her beloved along the west coast of the United States. This is similar to many of the songs she composed previously based on similar scenarios. Yet, she says “In the little red car that don't belong to you”, which gives an idea that she is fantasizing the scenario even though she is living another life with her beloved.. The lyric in one part in the song says, “I walked in the door, The Black Crowes playing as you cleaned the floor, I thought I couldn't love him any more”. In this context, The New Yorker magazine adds, “The difference, this time, is that the fantasy turns real, domestic”. Thus, it is clear that she did keep her usual songwriting style intact, while bringing in instances from the reality.

Inspiration From 80s Rock Music – Strength And Power

This is undoubtedly one of her most powerful songs, if not the most. The music video of “Comeback Kid” was released in October 2018. The use of heavy electronic instruments, drums and the rock music style of composition make it stand out from her other tracks in this album as well as her previous compositions with its strength and power.. Her vocal techniques are also very different as she has used more power in her voice and I could personally feel that it sounded like 70s and 80s rock music to some extent. This is something she never did before. In the music video, Sharon is seen standing in front of a projector with a giant screen behind her with a lot of abstract photos from her gallery and animations going across the screen creating a wonderful collage. The images were often disconnected to one another. An article published in the online version of Rolling Stone suggests that Sharon in a statement said while writing the lyrics she imagined a projector streaming over her of different memories even though they are not connected to each other. It seems like she has finally come out of her pain and trauma, however, she urges not to look back at the same time. The sound here in this track has been the major point of attraction and not the lyrics. The heavier and charged up music depicts passion, aggression and daring to the world. But mostly, the track is a milestone of her music that changed from traditional softer country/folk sound to a much stronger and powerful sound using rock and other electronic music elements.