New chapter, same narrator: Sharon Van Etten is better than ever on Remind Me Tomorrow | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

New chapter, same narrator: Sharon Van Etten is better than ever on Remind Me Tomorrow 

click to enlarge Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten

Ryan Pfluger

It’s been nearly five years since Sharon Van Etten released Are We There―which means it’s also been nearly five years without that voice. The Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter has long possessed the secret power to sound woefully resigned to the poetic drudgery of life while simultaneously prophetic in her realization of that. Though Van Etten is a raw and affecting lyricist, her smoky, folklike singing sometimes does the job all by itself—she threads each line with emotion using her delivery and melodic timbre. For last month’s Remind Me Tomorrow (Jagjaguwar), Van Etten enlisted producer John Congleton, who worked alongside St. Vincent during her rise to art-pop authority—news that came with the question of whether or not she’d be heading down a similar aesthetic path. But that didn’t happen. Not even close. Remind Me Tomorrow plays like Van Etten’s next chapter rather than her reboot. Though standout tracks such as “No One’s Easy to Love” and arena-ready single “Seventeen” are propelled and girded by dark, ethereal synths, those new textures don’t come close to overshadowing Van Etten—or drowning her out. Instead, they add another extension to her songwriting that feels incredibly welcome.   v

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