Sharon Van Etten’s Remind Me Tomorrow is her first album since 2014. Van Etten is back with another sweeping melodic album that wraps around you like a familiar arm. Produced by none other than John Congleton who has worked with The Decembrists and St. Vincent, Congleton has helped to engineer a sound that listeners may not be used to when listening to Van Etten in the past. The evolution of her music feels fitting. In the years since her last album, she has made her acting debut and had her first child, two events that have seemed to reshape the way she composes. The added synth and instrumentation in Remind Me Tomorrow gives a fully encompassing sound that branches out into some new territory for her. The standout “Comeback Kid” has a steady four on the floor beat that skips along and occasionally breaks the monotony with some staggering and accenting-- and the eerie sounds in the background blend well with the song’s lyrics and melody. It’s more upbeat than normal for Van Etten but the moodiness is still clearly there when she sings “Don't let me slip away/I'm not a runaway/It just feels that way”. Heartbreak is never far from her pen. “Do You Shadow” is another one of the album’s gems. Its catchy melody glues itself to you and stays with you all day. The plinking piano and ambient swirls in the background connect the album together because without them the song itself could be almost too pop for the rest of the album, but Congleton and Van Etten seemed to fit this together seamlessly and the final product is very compelling.
It’s possible that Van Etten’s foray into acting could have had a bigger impact on her songwriting than expected. It can’t be a mere coincidence that The OA is a drama with plenty of mystery and each song has a distinct feel of both of those elements. It’s not hard to imagine these songs on Netflix dramas as musical interludes as characters face their gloomy pasts and try desperately to move forward without much luck. Putting the soundtrack-esque nature of this album aside, it could have been interesting to use a good live band in the studio to record this album instead of relying on synthesizers; a little more ‘Exile on Main Street’ and a little less ‘Skinny Puppy.’ Making a jump in musical sound can be tough for an artist, but going from sounding more like Joni Mitchell to edging toward a realm of pop seems like the safest bet and might only come from someone trying harder to get more clicks and not trying something completely experimental.
She can sound at times like Sheryl Crow in this album, but with a better voice and while Crow always felt like the preppy high school cheerleader too popular for her own good, Van Etten feels more like Allie Sheedy in The Breakfast Club. Her dark and stormy demeanor is enticing and encapsulating. You suddenly find yourself wondering if you can take her to the prom, moodiness and all. She’s addicting and upon first listen of this album one wants to find a way to turn their head but it’s impossible. Sharon Van Etten is a unicorn living on a planet of horses. 3.9/5 <<