Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten

Jana Hunter

Tue, June 17

Doors: 7:00 pm


Sharon Van Etten - (Set time: 9:00 PM)
Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten’s Remind Me Tomorrow comes four years after Are We There, and reckons with the life that gets lived when you put off the small and inevitable maintenance in favor of something more present. Throughout Remind Me Tomorrow, Sharon Van Etten veers towards the driving, dark glimmer moods that have illuminated the edges of her music and pursues them full force. With curling low vocals and brave intimacy, Remind Me Tomorrow is an ambitious album that provokes our most sensitive impulses: reckless affections, spirited nurturing, and tender courage.

"I wrote this record while going to school, pregnant, after taking the OA audition,” says Van Etten. "I met Katherine Dieckmann while I was in school and writing for her film. She’s a true New Yorker who has lived in her rent controlled west village apartment for over 30 years. Her husband lives across the hall. They raised two kids this way. When I expressed concern about raising a child as an artist in New York City, she said ‘you're going to be
fine. Your kids are going to be fucking fine. If you have the right partner, you’ll figure it out together.'” Van Etten goes on, “I want to be a mom, a singer, an actress, go to school, but yeah, I have a stain on my shirt, oatmeal in my hair and I feel like a mess, but I'm
here. Doing it. This record is about pursuing your passions." The reality is Remind Me Tomorrow was written in stolen time: in scraps of hours wedged between myriad
endeavors — Van Etten guest-starred in The OA, and brought her music onstage in David Lynch’s revival of Twin Peaks. Off-screen, she wrote her first score for Katherine Dieckmann’s movie Strange Weather and the closing title song for Tig Notaro’s show Tig. She goes on, “The album title makes me giggle. It occurred to me one night when I, on auto- pilot, clicked 'remind me tomorrow' on the update window that pops up all the time on my computer. I hadn't updated in months! And it's the simplest of tasks!”

The songs on Remind Me Tomorrow have been transported from Van Etten’s original demos through John Congleton’s arrangement. Congleton helped flip the signature Sharon Van Etten ratio, making the album more energetic-upbeat than minimal-meditative. “I was feeling overwhelmed. I couldn't let go of my recordings - I needed to step back and work with a producer." She continues, “I tracked two songs as a trial run with John [Jupiter 4 and Memorial Day]. I gave him Suicide, Portishead, and Nick Cave's Skeleton Tree as references and he got excited. I knew we had to work together. It gave me the perspective I needed. It’s going to be challenging for people in a good way." The songs are as resonating as ever, the themes are still an honest and subtle approach to love and longing, but Congleton has plucked out new idiosyncrasies from Van Etten’s sound.

For Remind Me Tomorrow, Van Etten put down the guitar. When she was writing the score for Strange Weather her reference was Ry Cooder, so she was playing her guitar constantly and getting either bored or getting writer's block. At the time, she was sharing a studio space with someone who had a synthesizer and an organ, and she wrote on piano at home, so she naturally gravitated to keys when not working on the score - to clear her mind. Remind Me Tomorrow shows this magnetism towards new instruments: piano keys that churn, deep drones, distinctive sharp drums. It was “reverb universe” she says of the writing. There are intense synths, a propulsive organ, a distorted harmonium.

The demo version of “Comeback Kid” was originally a piano ballad, but driven by Van Etten's assertion that she "didn't want to be pretty", it evolved into a menacing anthem. Cavernous drones pull the freight for “Memorial Day,” which fleshes out an introvert in
warrior mode. The spangled “Seventeen” began as a Lucinda Williams-esque dirge but wound up more of a nod to Bruce Springsteen, exploring gentrification and generational patience. Van Etten shows the chain reaction, of moving to a city bright-eyed and hearing the elders complain about the city changing, and then being around long enough to know what they were talking about. She wrote the song semi-inter-generationally with Kate Davis, who sang on a demo version when the song was in its infancy.

Since her last album, Van Etten has had a young son, and family life is joyful. Preparing and finishing these songs, she found herself expressing deep doubts about the world around him, and a complicated need to present a bright future for him. “There is a tear welling up in the back of my eye as I’m singing these love songs,” she says, “I am trying to be positive. There is strength to them. It’s— I wouldn’t say it’s a mask, but it’s what the parents have to do to make their kid feel safe.”

Alongside working on Remind Me Tomorrow, Van Etten has been exploring her talents (musical, emotional, otherwise) down other paths. She’s continuing to act, to write scores and soundtrack contributions, and she’s returning to school for psychology. The breadth of these passions, of new careers and projects and lifelong roles, have inflected Remind Me Tomorrow with a wise sense of a warped-time perspective. This is the tension that arches over the album, fusing a pained attentive realism and radiant lightness about new love.
Jana Hunter - (Set time: 8:00 PM)
Jana Hunter
A dark pop musician hailing originally from northern Texas, Jana Hunter has been writing and recording, if not releasing, songs, for the past 16 years. Hunter's songs, usually featuring many overlapped tracks of her own voice, acoustic and electric guitars, and Hunter's first instrument, the violin, were recorded on tape machines for the better part of 10 years.

Growing up and on in suburbia, Jana Hunter avoided a life of casual but terrifying uniformity partly through constant bedroom recording. The "spooky, twee harmonic weirdness" (Noah Berlatsky; Chicago Reader; 1.29.09) found throughout the sparse, hissing 4-track recordings that Hunter made during that time does its due diligence in reporting on the creepiness of smalltown hiveminds, an autonomous wunderkind maturing secretly in Texas' midst, and the resultant teenage and/or cultural conflict. Hunter, intensely private, raised in a large, religious family, and an orchestral violinist from an early age, followed melodic obsessions and a gift for striking listener's as being near-"haunted" (Chas Bowie, The Portland Mercury, 2.9.06), developing a signature sonic topography.

These elements and a "quietly radiant voice with its own strange, feverish luster" (Matthew Murphy, Pitchfork Media, 11.16, 05) caught the rapt attention of critics and the enthusiastic endorsement of many of the day's most respected musicians upon the 2005 releases of a split LP 12" with Devendra Banhart and Hunter's solo debut, Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom. She followed with 2007's There's No Home full-length and and EP bearing the title Carrion, disciplined works that showcased "Hunter's ability to write and compose. Perhaps her next step is to expand upon the talent laden throughout this impressive second effort." (Eric Fitzgerald, Prefix Magazine, 5.18.07)

Hunter's newest work (a full-length due out in 2009) is still at times bleak, even grim, but more often rapturous, lush, and resplendent, and a marked refinement of her already considerable melodicism and sensitivity. On record and on stage, with or without her band, it's these things as well as Hunter's Cheshire-cat charisma, imperturbability, and classic-eras way with song that continue to make her a looming specter on the horizon.

"Jana Hunter is...making stark and mysterious songs full of a weird will, as if they’re writing themselves." (Ben Ratliff, New York Times, 4.29, 07)

"Don’t be mistaken: this album moves. More than a few songs are open road, inspire getting on. But on this journey, inspired by both nostalgia and expectation, the hearth fires burn wherever the singer and her harmonizers go, with the unmistakable presence and comfort of the moment...Songs start and leave quickly, but stick sweetly, like the snippet memories of a peyote-fueled campfire all-nighter. They make you rock, in the to-and-fro way, in the ghostly, introspective-but-communal-wanting ways that [Will] Oldham, [Mick] Turner and Windsor [For the Derby] can do so well." (Joel Minor, Daytrotter, 7.12.2007)

Although Hunter's early work was largely influenced by Western pop music (she names Beck's One Foot In the Grave, the Velvet Underground's ...& Nico as two notable influences), because of her association with Banhart and other friend musicians, Hunter's records were and have largely remained classified as that of a western folk musician. Hunter herself has said that she "didn't know shit about folk until I was well into my 20's" and that her music not only has little to do with folk, but also in large part (with the exception of some pieces on the split record) doesn't even so much as merit an association with folk music.

Hunter began an extensive touring schedule in 2005, and has to date played around the United States, Canada, and western and northern Europe multiple times. Hunter is currently based in Baltimore, Maryland.
Venue Information:
9:30 Club
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001