Sharon Van Etten — Remind Me Tomorrow ANALYSIS & REVIEW
For listeners who can fully appreciate unhurried tempos and soft-spoken deliveries, this is an album that never loses interest and keeps finding new ideas to grasp attention. It’s quite varied in song to song as to what the showcased elements are and how the sections are constructed and presented, but overall it comes out as quite a balanced, thoughtful work where compositional elements eventually pick up the slack when they may have felt a bit underdone in places. While there were some specific weak spots, the positives reign supreme by the end.
Even with the variance in highlights, one aspect that stayed largely the same, and for good reason, was the instrumentation. Piano, drums, and bass gave a nice modest and strong backdrop for the synthesizer and synth effects to find the sonic sparks of fascination. The synthetic sounds mostly had wonderful moments of build and giving off a neat spacious feeling with which the music could constantly live in.
The one negative about this, which stopped the timbre from reaching a higher status, was that the overly poignant sound qualities in some lead synths caused a little too much friction on the track from time to time as opposed to what the overall sonic atmosphere was conveying. That being said, the sonic restlessness was very much appreciated, and the rather stark texture growth at opportune times provided good surprise and direction.
There was quite a lot of songwriting strength on this album, and the few specific negatives didn’t do enough wrong to derail the work at all. Melody and harmony took turns being a dominant focus, and both elements ended up being just as positively influential. It was just a matter of what was truly focused on. There was an excellent harmonic highlight in “No One’s Easy To Love” with the C, B minor, F, D progression; neat tritone relationship between B and F, and that D major chord came as a wonderful blossom out of the air in raising the F to the F#.
The melodic highlights took a while longer to come, but they hit pretty hard in the last four tracks of the album, where the vocal lines suddenly had shorter, more repetitive phrases and broader range, specifically in the choruses to “You Shadow” and “Hands”. Although truly outstanding moments in these layers were just a little sparse, there was still lots of congenial, smart, pleasant writing overall.
There were just a few moments that dragged down the work for me that, while not complete swings and misses, did not make convincing contact. I didn’t think the minor triadic synth motive that the song “Memorial Day” was built off of had much impact or beauty to it, becoming a bit run down after a while. Also, the songs “Jupiter 4” and “Seventeen” had rather slow and static harmonic rhythm that didn’t include any grasping color or cool arrivals. For an album to be truly great, those moments of relapse have to either prove to be part of some bigger picture of form and style, or simply disappear.
For every idea that didn’t quite capture interest, there were about four or five that did. With all of its well-energized synthetic timbres, personal and organic vocal deliveries, and emphasis on colorful progression, being called “interesting” might just be the height it reaches. However, that’s nothing to just passively say. There’s lots to enjoy here once through, and a couple songs certainly have potential to be continually enjoyed.