Rolling Stone hailed Van Etten’s last album – 2014’s acclaimed ‘Are We There’ – as “one of the great albums of the century”. Five years on, they’re going to lose it over her fifth album, which is sounding like it may take a run for that title.
‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ is a departure from Van Etten’s previous guitar-focused sound, written on synths and piano. It rumbles with deep drones and is punctuated with sharp drums as a life lived outside of music resonates through the lyrics. There’s a happiness and a personal peace in spite of the world falling apart. The contradiction is expressed subtly but definitely as it draws on influences from Portishead to Suicide, and while the album may not be immediately striking it is one that makes an indelible mark on you over time.
The opening ‘I Told You Everything’ starts sparsely; a repeating piano stabs as a drone grows around the brutal honesty of the lyrics. A beat echoes as the once separate elements of the song come together, a subtle peak only given a sense of scale as it deconstructs and fades away. The first single to be lifted from the album, ‘Comeback Kid’, then boldly arrives as big beats spike through a swirling cosmos of electro haze. Beneath it a throb, above it a wavering pitch as the vocal holds steady throughout.
The drones and synths often offer an ominous undertone, while ‘Seventeen’ has a sharp heartbeat amplified by rhythmic piano and bittersweet lyrics cut through by grating riffs. Elsewhere those drones add an orchestral swell. Through ‘You Shadow’ there is a dancefloor call in the melody and an easiness to the vocal, which together create a glow around the song as discordant swaggering harmonies round-out the chorus.
With ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ Van Etten has shown she’s an enduring artist able to create cohesive works without being limited to a single style. Relatable in theme but with exploration beyond her previous musical boundaries, this is a record of quite astounding depth and resonance, one which should be played often.