If you listen to one thing this week: No Cities to Love by Sleater-Kinney
Our album of the week is Sleater-Kinney's eighth No Cities to Love, the first album released after a decade-long hiatus
Carrie Brownstein calls the band’s state of mind while making this record “possessed”, as she, Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss reconvened to create Sleater-Kinney’s eighth album. What makes this record so remarkable is not only that it actually exists (the band had previously gone on “extended hiatus”), but that it takes the inventiveness and verve of previous work like Call the Doctor, and Dig Me Out to somewhere new.
Their hiatus saw them veer off in different directions: Brownstein formed Wild Flag and created (and stars in) the TV series Portlandia; Weiss became the drummer for The Shins and Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks (among others); and Tucker started the Corin Tucker Band.
Their new record is a testament to so many of the things they have always represented: left-leaning, feminist, intelligent and playful. Brownstein’s guitar playing remains vital, Tucker’s voice is still strong and true, and Weiss’s excellent drumming keeps everything from toppling over.
After their celebrated collaboration with producer Dave Fridmann on 2005’s classic rock-infused The Woods, the band went back to their roots, and to longtime producer John Goodmanson, who takes great care of their old conceits and new experiences.
This is crucial, exciting music, with an ear towards melody – as evidenced on album closer Fade – and mature reflection. There is honest self-examination on Bury Our Friends, and meditation on pointless consumerism on Price Tag. Fangless could have been made at any time in their evolution, with the singular guitar and furious drum intro, and the chorus on Surface Envy is one that will be sung back to them concert after concert, and in bedrooms all around.
A New Wave, with its discordant melody, has Tucker and Brownstein singing about inventing their “own kind of obscurity”, a sense of defiance which is also present on No Anthems and Gimme Love.
Hey Darling is a great old-fashioned rock song about a relationship potentially coming apart. Channelling Patti Smith and PJ Harvey, it is shape-shifting, slow-burning, thrashing and passionate, like the greatest love stories – which Sleater-Kinney has truly become.