Sharon Van Etten


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Sat 9/21

Sand Stage


Sharon Van Etten's Remind Me Tomorrow comes four years after Are We There, and reckons

with the life that gets lived when you put off the small and inevitable maintenance in favor

of something more present. Throughout Remind Me Tomorrow, Sharon Van Etten veers

towards the driving, dark glimmer moods that have illuminated the edges of her music and

pursues them full force. With curling low vocals and brave intimacy, Remind Me Tomorrow is

an ambitious album that provokes our most sensitive impulses: reckless affections, spirited

nurturing, and tender courage.

"I wrote this record while going to school, pregnant, after taking the OA audition," says Van

Etten. "I met Katherine Dieckmann while I was in school and writing for her film. She's a

true New Yorker who has lived in her rent controlled west village apartment for over 30

years. Her husband lives across the hall. They raised two kids this way. When I expressed

concern about raising a child as an artist in New York City, she said 'you're going to be

fine. Your kids are going to be fucking fine. If you have the right partner, you'll figure it out

together.'" Van Etten goes on, "I want to be a mom, a singer, an actress, go to school, but

yeah, I have a stain on my shirt, oatmeal in my hair and I feel like a mess, but I'm

here. Doing it. This record is about pursuing your passions." The reality is Remind Me

Tomorrow was written in stolen time: in scraps of hours wedged between myriad

endeavors - Van Etten guest-starred in The OA, and brought her music onstage in David

Lynch's revival of Twin Peaks. Off-screen, she wrote her first score for Katherine

Dieckmann's movie Strange Weather and the closing title song for Tig Notaro's show Tig. She

goes on, "The album title makes me giggle. It occurred to me one night when I, on autopilot, clicked 'remind me tomorrow' on the update window that pops up all the time on my

computer. I hadn't updated in months! And it's the simplest of tasks!"

The songs on Remind Me Tomorrow have been transported from Van Etten's original demos

through John Congleton's arrangement. Congleton helped flip the signature Sharon Van

Etten ratio, making the album more energetic-upbeat than minimal-meditative. "I was

feeling overwhelmed. I couldn't let go of my recordings - I needed to step back and work

with a producer." She continues, "I tracked two songs as a trial run with John [Jupiter 4 and

Memorial Day]. I gave him Suicide, Portishead, and Nick Cave's Skeleton Tree as references

and he got excited. I knew we had to work together. It gave me the perspective I needed.

It's going to be challenging for people in a good way." The songs are as resonating as ever,

the themes are still an honest and subtle approach to love and longing, but Congleton has

plucked out new idiosyncrasies from Van Etten's sound.

For Remind Me Tomorrow, Van Etten put down the guitar. When she was writing the score for

Strange Weather her reference was Ry Cooder, so she was playing her guitar constantly and

getting either bored or getting writer's block. At the time, she was sharing a studio space with

someone who had a synthesizer and an organ, and she wrote on piano at home, so she

naturally gravitated to keys when not working on the score - to clear her mind. Remind Me

Tomorrow shows this magnetism towards new instruments: piano keys that churn, deep

drones, distinctive sharp drums. It was "reverb universe" she says of the writing. There are

intense synths, a propulsive organ, a distorted harmonium.

The demo version of "Comeback Kid" was originally a piano ballad, but driven by Van

Etten's assertion that she "didn't want it to be pretty", it evolved into a menacing anthem.

Cavernous drones pull the freight for "Memorial Day," which fleshes out an introvert in

warrior mode. The spangled "Seventeen" began as a Lucinda Williams-esque dirge but

wound up more of a nod to Bruce Springsteen, exploring gentrification and generational

patience. Van Etten shows 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. She wrote the song semi-inter-generationally with Kate Davis,

who sang on a demo version when the song was in its infancy.

Since her last album, Van Etten has had a young son, and family life is joyful. Preparing and

finishing these songs, she found herself expressing deep doubts about the world around him,

and a complicated need to present a bright future for him. "There is a tear welling up in the

back of my eye as I'm singing these love songs," she says, "I am trying to be positive. There

is strength to them. It's - I wouldn't say it's a mask, but it's what the parents have to do to

make their kid feel safe."

Alongside working on Remind Me Tomorrow, Van Etten has been exploring her talents

(musical, emotional, otherwise) down other paths. She's continuing to act, to write scores

and soundtrack contributions, and she's returning to school for psychology. The breadth of

these passions, of new careers and projects and lifelong roles, have inflected Remind Me

Tomorrow with a wise sense of a warped-time perspective. This is the tension that arches over

the album, fusing a pained attentive realism and radiant lightness about new love.