“I told you everything about everything,” sings Sharon Van Etten on “I Told You Everything” — the lead track of her latest album, Remind Me Tomorrow. This simple statement foreshadows the purpose of her sixth album, which departs from Van Etten’s classic acoustic sound. It’s a confessional, capturing the cluttered emptiness of her new life. Even the album cover, which appears like a cluttered Norman Rockwell painting, hints at this chaos. There’s children and costume pieces strewn all over a floor, alluding to the children (and she had while on a musical hiatus. Remind Me Tomorrow showcases Van Etten–a near-legend in the world of folk-rock–at her most introspective.
The album begins en media res, with “I Told You Everything” setting us right in the middle of the action. We’re suddenly sat at a bar with Van Etten as she tells an unknown companion about a failed relationship. The song is hauntingly beautiful, with the soft edges of her voice juxtaposing a thumping backbeat. This arrangement, along with every other one on the record, resonates a metaphor. The harsh beat competes with the dulcet melancholy of Van Etten’s vocals, mirroring the relationship she circles. It’s one that was an endless push and pull, and you can feel it.
Van Etten continues to grieve both the loss of her lover and the version of herself that loved him throughout Remind Me Tomorrow. This motif is most present on “No One’s Easy to Love,” adrift from the melodic territory Van Etten pioneered. Gone are her acoustic riffs and songs you can study to. With this track, Van Etten enters into the domain of artists like , where sonic dissonance serves to challenge the listener. “No One’s Easy to Love” sounds heavy. Listening is painful in the best possible way. Your ears don’t know whether to cling to the spiky drum beat or Van Etten’s voice, putting the listener in her place as she spurns her significant other.
However, Van Etten shines most on songs like “Comeback Kid” and “Seventeen,” which distill pure nostalgia to create sonic memories. “Comeback Kid” crescendos like an '80s teen movie. It sounds like John Bender raising his fist at the end of The Breakfast Club or Veronica Sawyer covered in soot, smoking a cigarette, in the final shot of Heathers. Van Etten meant this, as that feeling she gets when she goes “back home... [and sits] in the bedroom where [she] grew up, with all these memories” surrounding her.
Van Etten continues to pair sounds of her adolescence with Remind Me Tomorrow’s most potent realization — every iteration of yourself is ephemeral. “Seventeen,” the album’s crown jewel of a single, represents exactly that. In it, Van Etten’s voice takes on a sandpaper texture that works in tandem with the song’s auditory image, one of Van Etten pleading with her younger self to give into inevitable change without losing her spark. The song’s video depicts this with sepia film–tinted, melding images of a young Van Etten in suburban and urban playgrounds with her contemporary self.
Overall, Remind Me Tomorrow serves as Van Etten’s personal manifesto, a message to herself to keep continuing through a tumultuous past, a cluttered present, and an uncharted future. It’s raw and unedited, with each song extending well towards the five minute mark. Clearly, Van Etten has a lot to say, and we should all listen.