The last time a new Sleater-Kinney album graced these ears was when The Hot Rock came out back in 1999. The band has had a considerable amount of time to hone their twin-guitar-no-bass attack into an even more efficient machine. The intervening time has seen a strange transformation take place; Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker’s once razor-sharp interwoven punk riffs have morphed into an almost quirky take on classic rock guitar virtuosity and even punk’s antithesis, psychedelica. It’s not apparent so much in extraneous wankery as it is in the sheer epic quality of these songs’ melodies. Of course, layers of effects pedals and a healthy dose of echo add a sense of foreboding to the group’s usual tense urgency. It’s Janet Weiss’s mountain destroying drumming that acts as the eye-of-the-storm of this new maelstrom-esque S-K, directing the assault from verse to chorus and back again. Of the album’s two most traditionally uncharacteristic songs, “Let’s Call it Love” is the apex of this new Sleater-Kinney sound, climaxing in noise and amorphous soundscapes. The other, “Modern Girl,” comes across as a simple pop song, with minimal instrumentation and even a melodica melody to lighten the mood even further. Perhaps S-K’s next album will feel a tug in that direction, but in any case, The Woods shows that they’re still interested in moving forward wherever their destination may be.
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