No Cities to Love by Sleater-Kinney (Album of the Week)

sleaterAlbum: No Cities to Love

Artist: Sleater-Kinney

About: 10 songs; 33 minutes

Year: 2015

Choice: Deliberate Obfuscation

Dan thought I was choosing a hyphenated husband-wife duo when I chose Sleater-Kinney for our album this week. He soon realized that this band is anything but that. I admit that I came into this album with prejudice. I wanted to like this album a lot because my son, Sam loves Sleater-Kinney so much. Sam likes things that are cool, and I listened to it during the week that Sam married a very cool woman in a very cool way. It seemed like a good AND cool motherly thing to do if I, too really loved this album. So, if you are the dubious sort, you may chalk this up to me just glad handing. I really do love this album.

The first song I listened to was S-K’s David Letterman Show performance of A New Wave. That performance is indicative of the whole of the album. Songs that go from 0 to 60 immediately, and have a catchy hook that nails it. At the end of that performance, you hear Letterman say, “That’s right! That’s exactly right!” Here you have three women – each of the forty years old – rocking like no one’s business. I heart that. It is exactly right.

The ten tracks on this album are 3-minutes nuggets of beat poet energy. As I listened more and more, I caught the lyrics that make up the energy. Seeing them written down in the booklet that comes with the CD, is a visual of the song style. Short clips of ideas and notions:

I’ll take God when I’m ready

I’ll choose sin till I leave /

Where’s the evidence

The scars, the dents

That I was ever here? /

Wanna walk to, walk off

The edge of my own life /

We speak in circles

We dance in code

Untame and hungry

On fire in the cold

Those are lines from four of the songs, but I could have put examples from each that exemplify that same kind of staccato energy. They converge messages of injustice, identity finding, life’s hard knocks and girl power. Put to music, the message is blasted out.

This fun YouTube video of the title track, No Cities to Love starts out with Fred Armisen playing a keyboard on a city street and then cuts to a bunch of notables belting out the song. You have your Sarah Silverman being licked by her dog while she belts it out; Miranda July dancing awkwardly, Andy Samberg botching the lyrics … It is a perfect representation of what this whole album is. It makes you want to shout along, jump up and down, and bop your head to the crazy drum line that anchors each song. 

I am not cool enough to say that this version of Sleater-Kinney that comes 10 years after their last album is a different send up of the band. I honestly don’t know.  I have one other Sleater-Kinney album in my Itunes and it is their third album, Dig Me Out from 1997. I can tell you that 1997 was a time of my music listening that I wasn’t seeking much outside of my singer-songwriter world. Probably, if one of those songs came up in my shuffle, I would have skipped forward for something calmer. I am not a much different person from who I was back in 1997, but one of the areas that I think that I am very different is the flavors of music that now fill my music loving heart. There is now a place in there for Dwight Yokum, and even, Run the Jewels. And, the piece of my heart that housed punk in the 1980s but had shrunk in the 1990s, is now opening housing for rockers like Sleater-Kinney. I think that’s cool.

Next Up: Ryan Bingham’s Fear and Saturday Night

ryan bingham

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