Whole Life Magazine

February / March 2019

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Page 22 of 31

February/March 2019 23 S haron Van Etten has long been a critical darling; a singular, modern folk artist with a cult following. The New Jersey-bred musician (and new mom) will endear herself even more to lovers of thoughtful, melodic indie pop with Remind Me Tomorrow, her fifth album. Produced by St. Vincent collaborator John Congleton, RMT is more commercial-sounding than her previous work; that's not a knock, some of her new synthesizer-infused songs are simply louder and catchier without sacrificing the thoughtful lyrics and resonant, emotive voice for which she's known. RMT finds her at the height of her powers — Van Etten's rock star presence, visible in her gorgeously shot videos and spot- on live performances, is more confident than ever (she's expanded her career recently into acting, which may have contributed). With her sounds and images on this album, Van Etten nods to great female artists who came before her like Patti Smith, Joan Jett, Siouxsie Sioux, Aimee Mann, Liz Phair, Meshell Ndegeocello, PJ Harvey, and Karen O. But Van Etten is always fully herself, whether vacillating between admiration and fury on "Comeback Kid" to singing unabashedly about passion in the seriously sexy and haunting "Jupiter 4." The theme of reconciling the past with the present is a consistent theme, highlighted on "Seventeen," where Van Etten talks to the version of herself who existed 20 years ago. The singer seems to acknowledge that, no matter the present circumstances, everyone is haunted by their past. "I know what you're gonna be / I know that you're gonna be / You're crumbling up just to see / Afraid that you'll be just like me." It's hard to imagine that a younger Van Etten could be dissatisfied with the artist she's become. —Neal Broverman J ames Blake continues to be the strangest pop sensation (pop may be pushing it, folk electronica-pop is more accurate) of the decade. His music is quiet, sparse, and thoughtful; not exactly the realm of Top 40, where artists like Cardi B and Post Malone proliferate. But the British musician remains a huge draw, which is evident on Blake's latest release, Assume Form. Featuring collaborations with big names like Travis Scott and André 3000, Blake continues to attract the attention of more mainstream artists; he collaborated with Beyoncé for her Lemonade album, after all. But the songs featuring Scott and André and other collaborators of Assume Form, like Metro Boomin and Rosalía, fit right into Blake's sleepy, melodic style rather than overtake the sound. Some of the best songs on Assume Form may be the ones where Blake is unaccompanied, though. "Into the Red" features twinkling piano with Blake's lovelorn voice ("she was the goldrush" he sings repeatedly and mysteriously). Another lovely long song is "Can't Believe the Way We Flow," which features a gorgeous Beach Boys vibe. The whole album is a natural progression of Blake's earlier albums and cements his status as a trip-hop pioneer in the vein of producer Nellee Hooper and artists like Beth Orton and Massive Attack (all British folks, coincidentally or not). By the end, some of the songs bleed into another and sound a bit too similar to Blake's earlier music. All 12 songs are worth listening to but he's at his best when he's a bit more upbeat, or, to be specific, James Blake's version of upbeat. —Neal Broverman Remind Me Tomorrow art & soul music By Sharon Van Etten By James Blake Assume Form

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