Sonic textures, gorgeous yet sinister, forming musical landscapes that entice you into the world of Van Etten.
YMR Album Rating: **** (4/5)
Van Etten’s fifth album exemplifies an artist self-assured, where she has produced an atmospheric vibe on Remind Me Tomorrow that feels sombre, sinister, claustrophobic and filmic.
Look at the front cover of the album and you can see the disharmony, the mess, an almost claustrophobic feel. A feeling of losing yourself festers on this album. An ambitious, atmospheric piece of work that is produced by John Congelton (producer of St. Vincent).
The music sounds ominous, uncomfortable, but contrasts with Van Etten’s beautiful vocals, that seem to pierce through the doubt and reflection. Multi-layered synthesiser motifs and electronic drum beats provide an overarching feel of claustrophobia that ebbs and flows, building and falling as the songs reveal themselves.
Once you hear the first piano chord on ‘I Told You Everything’ you are drawn in. A sense of mystery enfolds as the song encapsulates the moment of sharing something deep with someone. Van Etten doesn’t elaborate what she is sharing, but we know that she “almost died“. A beautiful song of opening up, where she captures the tentativeness of being vulnerable so succintly with the lyric “we knocked knees as it started“.
An electric drum pattern forms the landscape of ‘No One’s Easy to Love”. A sexy yet ominous song, seemingly about letting an old lover back into your life. There is a sense of unease. As per the opening track she doesn’t elaborate, but the mystery remains with the line “There was a question you asked, ‘Is your father a man?‘”
The beauty of this album is the mystery, where the atmospherics reveal the essence of the song. ‘Comeback Kid’ is anthemic and pumps blood with synth motifs and drums; ‘Jupiter 4″ sounds filmic (the opening reminiscent of Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack to the film Birdy), where Jupiter 4 is the name of the synthesiser that permeates the album.
‘Seventeen’ emits a sense of freedom – an 80’s vibe that captures that feeling of being young and euphoric. Like the first time driving in a convertible car, or the first time partying and getting drunk. Those feelings don’t last forever, and Van Etten reflects as an older person, maybe even talking to her younger self.
This album needs to be listened over repeated plays. Over time the mystery of the songs might reveal themselves – further unfurling as you fall deeper and deeper – with the stratification of the musical textures providing the truth and the emotional heartbeat of the songs.
Remind Me Tomorrow is out now (Label: Jagjaguwar).