Touring her 2019 release Remind Me Tomorrow, Sharon Van Etten returns to Manchester with an exciting show at Albert Hall on the 22nd of March. It’s been nearly five years since her last album release and the wait has been agonising but well worth it.
Remind Me Tomorrow cements Van Etten’s status as one of the great, contemporary American songwriters: a point perfectly illustrated by the above track, ‘Seventeen’. The song wouldn’t be out of place on Born In The U.S.A. or Purple Rain and captures what makes this album stand out amongst Van Etten’s other work: production is playing a bigger role on this record than ever before. Nowhere is this more explicit than on the album closer, ‘Stay’.
Produced by John Congleton, Remind Me Tomorrow stands alongside his finest work for St. Vincent, John Grant and Angel Olsen. It’s fascinating to hear how Van Etten’s records have progressed since her 2010 debut, Because I Was In Love. Production has become more and more important to the soundscapes her records present but, strip away the flourishes and the effects, Van Etten’s outstanding song writing still remains. Take the example of ‘No One’s Easy to Love’. Beneath the layers of fuzz-laden bass, guitars and arpeggiated synthesisers is a thoughtful, painful ballad reflecting on past relationships.
What the production does is enhance her songs and provides her with tools she hasn’t had on her previous work. ‘Memorial Day’ – a stand-out track due to its spectral, haunting nature – couldn’t have existed without Van Etten’s move to a more produced sound; Dylan going electric this is not. For anyone who is being introduced to Van Etten through this article, compare the embedded songs to ‘For You’ from her debut: a song that remains one of this writer’s favourites of the last decade and captures the sound that Van Etten has evolved from.
Quite the shift in production approach. Do yourself a favour and listen to Van Etten’s entire oeuvre. Not a second will be wasted and you’ll get to listen to the evolution of an unmissable talent. If you’re an old fan, remind yourself today of how stellar she is.
Support comes from The Golden Filter and they’re an interesting pick. Reflective of Van Etten’s more produced sound this duo move fluidly between Italo disco to tunes more akin to Depeche Mode without the preening (note: I love Depeche Mode). It will be interesting to see what will comprise their set from their 11-year career.
Certain to be a highlight of the spring gig schedule.