I get excited when musicians branch out into a different musical genres or styles. Of course, sometimes it can be a disaster and other times an inspiring change. That said, Sharon Van Etten, who we all best identify as that folksy guitar confessional singer, made her return to music late last year, after something like four years away from music, with a rousing new synth-driven song called Comeback Kid. In short, Comeback Kid was a massive upheaval of her signature sound and I loved it. Interestingly it was followed by Jupiter 4 which was just as heavy with its synth sounds and dark romantic atmosphere. And with that song I thought we were going to have a real blast listening to the new Sharon Van Etten.
The story goes that around 2015, Van Etten decided to take a break from the rigors of music to become a mom and go back to school to pursue a psychology degree. Also tired of the guitar and uninspired by writing a lot of the same stuff, during her hiatus she began writing and creating demos on the piano and synthesizers as something different to do. Encouraged to explore this new side of her artistic self, she confided in a new producer to help make it happen.
With the release of her new album Remind Me Tomorrow back in January of this year, everyone immediately fell in love with the new Van Etten. Some called her reinvention a stroke of genius, others saw it as a natural evolution. But whatever we may believe, Van Etten on her fifth album changed how she went about being a musician and songwriter. With plenty of heart, which Van Etten has abundance of, she circled around old themes but also found something new to say too.
One of the songs that has plenty of heart is the album’s standout track Seventeen. It is amongst a bunch of other strong emotive tracks on the album that for my mind feels the most contemplative of the lot. Van Etten looks back at a time in her life when she was poised for the future, a time when she felt free. But with freedom comes a scary lack of certainty, something that van Etten knows all too well about. Throughout Seventeen Van Etten mostly reflects and talks to her younger herself. “I see you so uncomfortably alone / I wish I could show you how much you’ve grown.”
The accompanying music video is also worth checking out. In a press release that came out with the song we were told it was Van Etten’s “love letter” to New York City. Its nostalgic visuals show us some of her old stomping grounds and the old bars and dives that made her the musicians that she is today. The video is also intercut with Van Etten observing a younger version of herself treading the same path she once took all those years ago. Enjoy!
In a recent new mini documentary release last week called Departure, it became clearer to me why Van Etten has been feeling so nostalgic about New York City. In short, after fifteen years of living in NYC, she was finally saying goodbye to the city she called home and moving on to live a new life, in a new city (rumoured to be Los Angeles) with her husband and son.