I am almost always skeptical when an indie rock artist decides to make their “dance-pop record”. I am also almost always wrong about this skepticism. With Remind Me Tomorrow, the latest release from this typically guitar-based singer-songwriter, I had an inkling that once again I’d be eating my words in regards to this slight sonic reinvention. Because late last year, Sharon Van Etten released the fantastic single “Comeback Kid”, a song that is weirdly catchy and anthemic, yet still has that undercurrent of regret and melancholy that seems to run through all of Van Etten’s music.
So here I am, with my skepticism thoroughly vanquished, seeing as Remind Me Tomorrow is a definite contender (along with 2012’s Tramp) for my favorite Sharon Van Etten album. It’s been a few years since 2014’s Are We There, and so you would assume she’s done some growing since then (musically and personally). And from what I’ve read and heard on this album, that seems to be the case.
I’m always a little cautious of extracting meaning from an artist’s personal life in terms of how it affects the music. But Van Etten fell in love and had a child in the time since her last album, and I have to assume that influenced Remind Me Tomorrow somewhat. You do get that there’s a sense of calm in her from the two tracks that serve as the core of the album (“Comeback Kid” and “Seventeen”), which are not only surprisingly infectious, but see the singer looking back on her younger, more restless years.
That said, as you would expect from any Van Etten album, she does bring the sadness. The album starts off particularly somber with the first few tracks, but then bursts into a dancier vibe, before finally getting to “You Shadow”, which is more or less a straight-up pop song, but one that also throws in some darker elements. The album overall has this push-and-pull of lighter and darker moments, which really has been Van Etten’s M.O. her whole career, it’s just that this album necessitated a slight push in a different direction. And perhaps that’s what makes it a successful endeavor when an indie artist makes their “dance-pop record” – when they can make that leap while making it sound completely natural.