When Sharon Van Etten released Remind Me Tomorrow earlier this year I was floored. It was a beautiful blend of fragility served with a bold, unwavering strength. The day the album was released, I proclaimed to anyone that bothered to check out my Instagram stories that this was indeed one of the best albums I’ve heard.
Imagine my shock as I woke up the next morning with a direct message from Sharon Van Etten herself. Sure, it was a simple reply and a thanks, but the rush I got was something I’ll never forget.
It’s also why I feel that Remind Me Tomorrow is so important. It feels human despite the inclusion of synthesizers, an instrument that can get unfairly maligned. It’s fresh, even though it’s still the tried and true Van Etten; brooding, cerebral, and soul-baring. It’s everything I’ve always known her to be. Just better.
Perhaps it was the five-year hiatus since her last album, but everything about Remind Me Tomorrow is perfectly placed. From the confessional “I’ve Told You Everything”, to the moving closer “Stay”, Van Etten created a world of sound exploring the emotions of growing older, losing hope, and regaining hope by finding what’s worthwhile to you.
You may have been aware of “Seventeen”, a powerhouse of a song that exemplifies the strength of Van Etten’s effective songwriting. It immediately became an anthem for those seeking a better future, even at the cost of the multiple slip-ups and also knowing you’re going to lose some of your past along the way. I am eagerly anticipating future renditions of this song from so many artists. It’s like the song was just planting a seed and it is only beginning to set its roots.
This year I looked back and realized that twenty years ago I had turned seventeen. I hated being that age. I felt everything I was doing was under some microscope, and it doesn’t help that you are forced to be surrounded by other hormonal seventeen year olds struggling through high school. It was the worst. I’ll never understand why people would want to go back to that time.
At a friends house earlier this year, we were drunkenly thumbing through our class yearbook. I had thrown mine out when I moved out of town a few years ago, so it’s was kinda fun to see how we all looked back when we thought we could change the world. After flipping though for a few moments, I eventually found my teenaged face staring back at me. As I stood there amused, the lyrics from “Seventeen” kept repeating in my head.
I see you so uncomfortably alone, I wish I could show you how much you’ve grown.
Remind Me Tomorrow is a milestone record for 2019. Using stripped-down pop sensibilities with an experimental approach gave these ten songs their own personalities. From the bouncing bass acting like a heartbeat in “No One Is Easy To Love” or being the driving force in “Hands”. To the sultry sax peppered in “Memorial Day” making it feel like it’s early in the morning of an empty, exhausted city. The usage of conventional and electronic instruments gave this record life with no expiration date in sight.
Of all the songs this year, I have listened to “Comeback Kid” the most. An absolutely perfect pop song about the struggles of returning to hometown life. Lyrically, it’s a song of Springsteenian proportions, and if I ever hear him sing a version of “Comeback Kid”, I’d probably die.
“Comeback Kid” speaks to me as what could have been if I had stayed in town. If I kept doing the things I was doing, would I have been happy with that? I looked back at that picture from 2001 and I already saw a tinge of hopelessness. Not that I’m not satisfied with what I have today. I am. I’m just someone who’ll always be dancing in the dark.
There’s something happening somewhere, baby I just know there is.