Sleater-Kinney

No Cities to Love

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Perhaps it was inevitable that Sleater-Kinney would reunite. They parted ways in 2006 claiming that it was a hiatus, not a dissolution, thereby leaving the door open for a comeback -- a comeback that arrived nearly ten years after the group faded away. Smartly, Sleater-Kinney don't pick up the threads left hanging by the knotty, roiling The Woods. They acknowledge the decade they spent apart, a decade where all three members pursued very different paths: Corin Tucker turned toward domesticity then founded her own punk-blues band, drummer Janet Weiss played with Stephen Malkmus before re-teaming with Carrie Brownstein in Wild Flag, an indie supergroup that provided Brownstein a breather from her newfound fame as a television star. In short, all three spent ten years living their lives and those lives can be felt throughout No Cities to Love, a record that neatly balances urgency and maturation. Purposefully short -- the album weighs in at barely over a half-hour -- and conspicuously bereft of slow songs (the slow churn of the closing "Fade" is the only contender), No Cities to Love feels breathless but it also finds room to breathe. Previously when Sleater-Kinney stretched out musically, they were assisted by an outside producer -- they hired Roger Moutenot for The Hot Rock, Dave Fridmann for The Woods -- but here, they reunite with producer John Goodmanson, who helmed every other one of the trio's records, and that familiarity is a key to the success to No Cities to Love. Sleater-Kinney worked on these ten songs over the course of two years, deliberately ditching songs that recalled the past ("Hey Darling" comes closest to evoking the old rush), a move that often results in complex syncopated rhythms (more than the group flirt with a disco-rock pulse) and rich, multi-layered melodic hooks in the guitars and vocals. It's a bright, openhearted call to arms, an antidote to The Woods, and a furious and cloistered record that found the band retreating whenever they decided to look on the outside world. Which isn't to say Tucker and Brownstein are happy with the state of affairs in 2015: No Cities to Love attacks contemporary politics as directly as One Beat did in 2002, teaming with anger, anxiety, and unresolved questions. Despite this internal tension, the first and lasting impression of No Cities to Love is one of joy, a joy that emanates from a group who realized the purpose and pleasure of being in a band during their extended absence.

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