Sharon Van Etten’s new video for “Seventeen” will destroy you

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Sharon Van Etten | photo courtesy of the artist

“You think you know something. You don’t.”

Singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten is in conversation with her younger self on the latest teaser of her hotly anticipated new record Remind Me Tomorrow. “Seventeen” rides a fervent kick drum pulse and juxtaposes moving piano chords and steady guitar strums with synthesizer squalor that becomes more intense as the song progresses, leaving listners gutted and breathless at the end.

On the one hand, the song and its music video comprise a love letter to New York City, where Van Etten has lived for the past 15 years. It celebrates the New York City that opened up a world of possibilities for a young creative woman from New Jersey, the New York City that shaped her personally and artistically, and the New York City that is gone to the ages. As Van Etten sings: “Downtown hot spot, half way up this street / I used to be free, I used to be seventeen.”

The credits of the video shout out a litany of seminal venues, some still standing, some gone, that appear as its scenery: Pianos, Sin-é, Cake Shop, Zebulon, Union Pool, and Baby’s All Right. But this is more than another NYC artist pining very specifically about leaving NYC (St. Vincent’s “New York,” LCD Soundsystem’s “New York I Love You etc. etc.”) — whereas most songs in that genre (can we call the “leaving New York song” a genre?) do have a thematic undercurrent of time, of change, of mortality and the eventual grave we all end up in while the world moves on without us, they tend to put the city and its hyper-local reference points in the forefront, leaving the other stuff beneath.

Van Etten flips that format, making NYC a universal backdrop to these gripping emotions that surround getting older, of looking back over our youth, of realizing that it has faded and wanting one final embrace with it before it is gone for good. In the music video, brilliantly directed by Maureen Towey, the city looks stunning in its cosmopolitan splendor and punk grit, but it doesn’t matter that the city is New York. (Maybe it does to New Yorkers.) It could be anywhere — the important thing is the way it captures a sense of place and the self-reflection that comes with the passing of time. To underscore it even more deeply, Van Etten is followed around throughout the video by a doppelganger played by Rachel Trachtenberg (of the band Wooing, formerly the drum-playing kid from Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players), and the way she’s styled to look like Van Etten herself as a teenager makes the lyrical punch all the more powerful.

“I see you so uncomfortably alone / I wish I could show you how much you’ve grown.”

Just wow. Watch “Seventeen” below, and hell, just keep it on repeat for the rest of the day. Sharon Van Etten plays Union Transfer on February 7th, and you know what to do, so do that hereRemind Me Tomorrow is out January 18th on Jagjaguwar; full tour dates can be found below.

Tour Dates
Wed. Feb. 6 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club #
Thu. Feb. 7 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer #
Fri. Feb. 8 – Boston, MA @ Royale #
Sat. Feb. 9 – New York, NY @ Beacon Theatre $ #
Mon. Feb. 11 – Toronto, ON @ Danforth Music Hall #
Wed. Feb. 13 – Detroit, MI @ Majestic Theatre #
Thu. Feb. 14 – Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall # — SOLD OUT
Fri. Feb. 15 – Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall #
Sat. Feb. 16 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue #
Mon. Feb. 18 – Englewood, CO @ Gothic Theatre #
Tue. Feb 19 – Salt Lake City, UT – Metro Music Hall #
Thu. Feb 21 – Portland, OR – Crystal Ballroom #
Fri. Feb 22 – Vancouver, BC – Imperial #
Sat. Feb 23 – Seattle, WA – Neptune Theatre #
Tue. Feb. 26 – San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore #
Thu. Feb 28 – San Diego, CA – The Observatory North Park #
Fri. March 1 – Los Angeles, CA – The Theatre at Ace Hotel #
Thu. March 21 – Birmingham, UK @ The Mill
Fri. March 22 – Manchester, UK @ Albert Hall
Sat. March 23 – Dublin, IE @ Vicar Street
Sun. March 24 – Glasgow, UK @ St. Luke’s – SOLD OUT
Tue. March 26 – London, UK @ Roundhouse
Wed. March 27 – Bristol, UK @ SWX
Fri. March 29 – Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso
Sat. March 30 – Brussels, BE @ Orangerie (at Botanique)
Mon. April 1 – Paris, FR @ La Maroquinerie
Tue. April 2 – Koln, DE @ Luxor
Wed. April 3 – Munich, DE @ Strom
Fri. April 5 – Berlin, DE @ Lido
Sat. April 6 – Hamburg, DE @ Grünspan
Sun. April 7 – Copenhagen, DK @ Studio 2 (DR Concert House)
Tue. April 9 – Gothenburg, SE @ Pustervik
Wed. April 10 – Oslo, NO @ Parkteatret
Thu. April 11 – Stockholm, SE @ Kagelbanen

# = with Nilüfer Yanya
$ = with Fred Armisen

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