Whenever a band reunites after a long separation, its fans inevitably fear being let down. When that band once was one of the most influential groups on a generation’s subculture, with a legacy continuing to influence modern alt-rock groups today, the fear is even greater. This is why fans’ feelings about Sleater-Kinney’s eighth studio album could only be described as nervous anticipation. Thankfully, the women of Sleater-Kinney didn’t disappoint.
Coming out of Olympia, Washington in the mid-1990s, the original duo consisted of Carrie Brownstein––of present-day “Portlandia” fame––and Corin Tucker. They both sang and played guitar. Though the two have gone through a few drummers since, the current and longest-standing drummer is Janet Weiss. Weiss is also a member of both Quasi and Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks.
A lot may have changed in the world since Sleater-Kinney’s last album The Woods was released 10 years ago, but the band didn’t seem to miss a beat with the release of No Cities to Love. The standout singles become obvious to the listener as soon as they start and the whole album works together beautifully. It doesn’t feel as if a single song is filler or a clear B-side.
The album is only 10 tracks and clocks in at 32 minutes but still packs a punch. Some fans may be disappointed that after a decade-long wait, this is all they get. What they really should be thinking, however, is, “I can’t believe I get all of this.”
The titular “No Cities to Love” starts off with some killer harmonies, segues into a great bridge and then immediately hammers you back into the chorus with Weiss’ phenomenal drumming. The other clear standout is the single “Bury Our Friends.” The guitar riff is killer and it’s hard not to get up and dance when this track comes on.
“No Anthems” reminds listeners just how much modern music owes to Sleater-Kinney. Bands like Speedy Ortiz, Metric and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs owe a lot of their sound to the all-girl group and this song won’t let you forget that. True to its name, it’s clear this song is anthemic—and what a blast the song will be to listen to live. I can easily picture audience members pounding up against each other, shouting along to the chorus, “I’m not the anthem / I once was an anthem / I sang the song of me, but now / There are no anthems / All I can hear is / The echo and the ring.”
“Price Tag” is the lead track on the album and it is probably one of the weakest, but it’s still exceptional. It starts off with one of the most complicated riffs the band has ever written and is a lyrical thrashing of capitalism. Keeping up this rebellious attitude may have been key on a comeback album that ran the risk of receiving cries of “sell-out.”
No Cities to Love is probably the greatest album yet from Sleater-Kinney and that’s saying a lot. For a band to come back after a 10-year absence and produce its greatest work to date is almost unfathomable—most definitely commendable. It may be early to call it, but No Cities to Love will almost undoubtedly prove one of the best albums of 2015.