Sharon Van Etten At Amoeba, Thursday January 17th 2019
Sharon Van Etten said she was super nervous at Amoeba on Thursday night but she didn’t sound like it, she actually sounded great as usual, while performing a few new songs from her new album ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’. The album will only be released on Friday via Jagjaguwar, but people at Amoeba got to hear a few songs live with Sharon and her great band.
I hadn’t heard about her for a few years, but I remember liking her very personal brand of indie pop-folk-rock and I was curious about the new material. ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ comes four years after ‘Are We There’, and it looks like a long time for the music industry,.. so much music is released every year that it’s easy to disappear very quickly. But Sharon is back, she is the comeback kid (the title of one of her new songs) and seems to be in great shape with new synth-oriented songs, which sounded very atmospheric and spacey. She didn’t even use a guitar, just a percussion thing in one hand, while often grabbing the mic with the other one, and she sang with her emotional and crystalline voice six new ones, and never bothered to bring back old material.
Her new sonic universe is expansive and layered with synths, while organs and electronica were sculpting the first song, the hot and vindictive ‘Comeback Kid’, beaten by drums and performed with a tone that I had forgotten she could have. The guitar seemed shelved for a while and the show concentrated on organ, synth, drums, and percussion with a punchy tempo and a vulnerable vibration in her vocals that brought PJ Harvey in mind… One sure was certain, there was nothing folksy in this new tone. ‘You Shadow’ was haunted by a piercing organ and vocal harmonies around a strong pop hook, while ‘Jupiter 4’, named after a Roland synthesizer, slowly rose like a spatial shuttle while the strongest chorus of the set was expressing a rare yearning and ‘a love so real’ in repeat.
And if it will take a few more listens to fully get the songs, it was certainly an interesting new departure for Sharon, with her vocals surfing the many layers of synth, while a few scary looping electronics never covered her soaring croon during ‘No One’s Easy to Love’, revealing another hooky beauty.
Her voice evaporated into a new height during ‘Memorial Day’, blending into the atmospheric melancholy of the song, making the lyrics inaudible but bringing a rare moment of cinematic beauty, a bit like Cat Power did on her ‘Sun’ album. She closed her set with her single ‘Seventeen’, a love letter to NYC that she performed with a renewed confidence a la Springsteen, getting angry and intense… Sharon Van Etten looked not so nervous after all, and if the songs sounded a bit dark at times, they also had this fresh air of freedom and newfound beauty, oscillating between dreams and nostalgia.
No One’s Easy to Love