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CD of The Week

Week of 1/22/24

    Sleater-Kinney - Little Rope (Loma Vista)

    One of the best things about leaving home can be coming back and showing off what you got to experience while out exploring the world. This becomes increasingly true when voyages take unexpected turns and force you to trace a new way back, both to your world and yourself. Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker seem to understand this truth as well as anyone in rock music. After one of the most thrilling homecomings in recent memory with 2015's No Cities To Love, the band proved eager to venture back into the unknown again with their subsequent two releases, trying out sounds and vibes that would have been unthinkable in their original ascent to indie stardom. While this new adventure didn't come without its fair share of bumps, detours, and departures (still love ya, Janet!), it still gifted both Sleater-Kinney and us as listeners with plenty of worthwhile rewards and revelations. The remaining duo literally brings those hard-earned souvenirs home on Little Rope.

    The best Sleater-Kinney album since their initial comeback, Little Rope finds Brownstein and Tucker back in banger mode after the relatively relaxed, pandemic-informed Path Of Wellness. They successfully layer the dense sonics of their latter-day experimentation into catchy, commanding song structures that recall their imperial era. In particular, it splits the difference spiritually between the rollicking righteousness of All Hand On The Bad One and the headier, heavier tones of The Hot Rock. Those albums, much like their previous two, don't come up as often in conversations about "peak" Sleater-Kinney as the ones around them, but they've aged wonderfully. Like them, Little Rope is both improved by more intricate interplay between band members and informed by strife and loss.

    This honestly would have been more than enough to pull off another win in their oeuvre, but Little Rope is also influenced by more recent and personal tragedy. Carrie lost her mother and stepfather in a car accident while recording that album, and you can feel all five stages of her grief in how the songs play out. Catharsis is palpable in her squalling guitars and synths, while Corin's gale-force wail makes a welcome return across the album that feels as comforting for us as Carrie says it was for her. This is not a band that has shied away from themes of loss and mortality, but they've arguably never rendered them as potently and vitally as they do here.

    Indeed, the tangible urgency that some feared was dwindling in Sleater-Kinney's music is back with a vengeance. You hear it in lead single "Hell", which plays like an emotionally hungover One Beat outtake. "You ask why like there's no tomorrow", Corin keens like she's simultaneously breathing her own fire and trying to put another one out. She and Carrie are back to playing like there's no tomorrow too. Who knows? By this time next year, there may not be, but Little Rope will serve well as a soundtrack to making every minute until then count.
    Review by Rob Huff

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