Remind Me Tomorrow
Sharon van Etten
THERE are, within the realms of emotional triggers and earthquakes, only a few people who could make broadcaster John Campbell cry.
Better still, to cry live on his television show, and on his birthday. Sharon van Etten has that honour.
Unable to go to her concert, his television crew organised for him the perfect fan-boy gift. Van Etten sang to him live on television from her soundcheck at the now-defunct King’s Arms in Auckland, in 2015.
Campbell tearfully mused that “music just sometimes keeps you afloat, doesn’t it?”
Her fifth and new album is a departure from the guitar and sad-songs folk of previous outings. She follows a range of styles from hard-out rock to woozy vocals and grand hall echo piano, to almost triphop and breakbeat on her final and best track, Stay.
If you’re a fan of British bands such as The Cinematic Orchestra and Goldfrapp, then there are plenty of tasty morsels in such tracks for you. She captures the essence of floating away and trying as hard as possible to get back to stability.
Brought up in New Jersey, van Etten veered towards Tennessee folk as a singer-songwriter, gigging in cafes and working for record labels.
She came to greater public recognition touring with and collaborating with United States band The National, along with film and television roles. Critically well received albums followed, with a greater stage and creative confidence, hit single Every Time the Sun Comes Up, plus motherhood.
The self-confessed introvert decided to be bolder and more experimental, and literally shed another protective skin.
On opener, I Told You Everything, van Etten is in full release and confession mode, where the listener and confidante gasps at the end, “I had no idea”.
Writers can be brave people.
Van Etten has publicly talked about the controlling and abusive relationships she has been in and the damage caused to her, and to those around her. The escape and re-invention is part of the story, but ultimately adds the tension and grit to engage the listener. She is singing us her truth.
The beauty for a musician is to put an instrument, sound and intensity to the array of emotions.
Beds of synthesizers and fluctuating effects pull Memorial Day and No One’s Easy to Love around the show, and her voice is constantly finding new power.Her touring partner, keyboard and backing singer, Heather Woods Broderick, is the vocal glue.
Where tracks such as Hands have sci-fi studio loops, Broderick must be a producer’s dream to help create a wall of sound.
The rocker dynamics of Seventeen and bludgeoning synth of Comeback Kid are reflective, positive notes to a teenage self. They have the power of Springsteen and Patti Smith, with the pose and equal intensity.
You Shadow crackles along on a bed of broken, distorted pop and the ‘80s sass and attitude of Pat Benatar or The Motels flows through Jupiter 4.
Following sell-out tours and a packed Powerstation this month in Auckland, we can also thank the former Ohope and Waimana promoters Ruth Bell and Rob Jefferson of Solid
Entertainment for continuing to bring such inspired acts to Aotearoa.
And yes, John Campbell was there. You’ll have to ask him about his tear duct activity.
By Chris Casey