Favorite 90s Albums: #3 – Sleater-Kinney – “Dig Me Out”

At this point, I’m sure people are aware of my deep, abiding love of Sleater-Kinney.  They’re my musical religion, the band that, to me, represents everything that music should be about. All of the elements that make them a definitive rock band to me are present on their 1997 album Dig Me Out, which many fans would argue is their high point as a group.

Admittedly, I’m a big dork about rock music.  For me, it isn’t for blasting in the radio or playing at a party.  Rather, I like to take the term literally:  It should “rock” you, make you think, and wake you up from the constant doldrums of life and humanity.  Alleged “rock” bands that don’t do these things are frequently the target of my ire and it’s a constant disagreement I have with other people.

Dig Me Out is one of my all-time favorite rock albums because it has such a sense of purpose.  It isn’t just trying to sound cool or to be a fun soundtrack to a dance party (although some of the songs are quite danceable).  It wants to jolt the listener, to move them and inspire them.  And for a certain group of people, the types that are disenfranchised with the status quo in both the real world and music world, it does just that, which might explain why the band has such a rabid (but relatively small) following.

For Dig Me Out, Sleater-Kinney brought in a new drummer, Janet Weiss, to go along with Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein’s two-pronged guitar and vocals assault.  Weiss immediately gave the band a new-found sense of confidence and swagger, and as a result Dig Me Out sounds like their first album in which they’re aspiring to be a great all-around rock band rather than just a punk outfit.  Her presence was immediately felt in the opening title track, which I consider one of the band’s signature songs.

After the release of their 2000 album “All Hands on the Bad One”, music critic Robert Christgau said of the band: “locked into a visceral style and sound that always maximizes their considerable and highly specific gifts, they could no more make a bad album than the Rolling Stones in 1967.”  It’s a bold statement, but one I find completely true:  Not only can I not imagine Sleater-Kinney making a bad album, it’s hard for me to picture them making a bad song.  Corin Tucker’s attention-demanding vocals, Brownstein’s complex riffwork and vocal chemistry with Tucker along with Weiss’s drumming made Sleater-Kinney into a machine.  It’s apparent on Dig Me Out, which comes storming out of the gate with three of the band’s best songs and never lets up from there, providing an exhilarating 36 minutes of rock and roll.

The oddball song on the album is “One More Hour,” a more personal song that (apparently) details the break-up between Tucker and Brownstein that happened in the early days of the band.  Sleater-Kinney’s style makes the song work perfectly, as the ping-ponging guitars and vocals also play into the idea of the two having had a relationship.  I think it’s one of the all-time great indie break-up songs and it foreshadows the shift Sleater-Kinney would make on their next album (“The Hot Rock”) into more personal territory instead of rousing, occasionally feminist anthems.

I’ve always thought that all-female bands occupied a strange place in music, which might be why I’m so fascinated by them.  The female listeners they’re often trying to inspire often just listen to sensitive guys strumming on guitar, while a lot of male listeners look up to male rock idols in order to seem “manly.”  The band seemed to channel a lot of those concepts into meta songs about being in a band, like the infectious “Words and Guitar.”

The band’s greatness has eventually caused me to dub something called “The Sleater-Kinney Effect”, based on how lame the band is able to make other artists (especially their male counterparts) sound after listening to them.  The effect becomes even more pronounced through time, as 90’s guitar rock went by the wayside and Sleater-Kinney towered over unoriginal post-punk bands and wimpy indie pop in the first half of the 2000s.  In 1997 things probably felt the same way, as Dig Me Out provided a jolt of legitimate female empowerment at the height of the Spice Girls “girl power” movement, and surely inspired many women (including one of my favorite current artists, Marnie Stern) to pick up a guitar.

Despite how convinced I am that they’re one of the best bands ever, I’ve come to accept that Sleater-Kinney is a love-it or hate-it proposition.  Tucker’s vocals are difficult on the ears a lot of listeners and a lot of people are put off by the band’s apparent feminist sloganeering.  At the same time, the idea of listening to Dig Me Out and not being inspired by the passion put into each song is foreign to me, even as a guy who isn’t really the target audience.  More than any other band, I feel like people that love Sleater-Kinney “get it” on a level beyond typical music listeners.

Favorite 90s Albums: #4 – Radiohead – “OK Computer”

I’ve been sort of dreading this one.  What is there left to be written about OK Computer?  By now, I imagine anyone who remotely cares about music has listened to it and formed their opinion on it.  Just about any list of top 90’s albums that is worth anything will have it at or near the top, with most praising it as a landmark album that has come to define the 90’s and everything that came after it.  It’s a prescient album that in some ways predicts how the internet would make music extremely fractured today in 2011.  It’s hard for me to imagine another album being made that unifies as many people as this one, that is celebrated by both the indie sect and more casual music fans.

Since enough has been said about it, I don’t really feel like giving my own inferior analysis of the music.  If you haven’t heard OK Computer, do it.  Now.  Close your door, stop reading this crappy blog, put on your headphones and spend the better part of the next hour listening intently.  Meanwhile, I can at least share what this album means to me personally.

I’m somewhat unique among the musically obsessed in that I didn’t really listen to music at all growing up.  My parents both played some classical stuff on guitar or piano, but there was very little in the ways of contemporary music.  When people asked me favorite bands or songs, I just kind of shrugged and said I didn’t listen to music.  Pretty much all of my musical memories from this time are things I was exposed to unwillingly:  Awful Smash Mouth songs, the collected works of pretty much every late 90’s boy band (thanks to my sister), and most of the other ubiquitous 90’s hits.  There was nothing that I ever sought out myself.

It wasn’t until high school that I began to take at least a casual interest in music.  It probably had something to do with the transition going on in my life, from a previously happy and well-adjusted elementary and middle schooler into an alienated high schooler.  After living a mostly sheltered existence, high school was the first time I saw what the real world was, and for the most part recognized how terrible it is.  I had always been considered funny, witty, and smart by people who knew me, but in high school none of those traits seemed to be valued. Eventually I basically gave up on trying to relate to my peers and became incredibly shy and withdrawn (problems I still struggle with today).  For the most part, I had no real friends that I was seeing regularly and just a handful of acquaintances who I would occasionally talk to.

After each day of high school, I would usually take a nap, but then I’d have nothing to do for the next 7-8 hours (since I rarely did my homework).  And that’s when I began to start seeking out music, partly out of boredom but also because there was this whole world that I had really not explored at all.  For the first year or so (I’m guessing), I latched on to just a handful of bands:  Oasis, Muse, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The Verve.  And those bands, and pretty much just those bands, became music for me.  I listened to them constantly and didn’t bother finding anything else for a weirdly long amount of time.  (Sidenote:  I still listen to Oasis and The Verve occasionally, but now just hearing one note of Muse and RHCP is enough to almost make me gag.)

Eventually I began to look for more bands, and I decided to try to find bands similar to Muse. When searching, I found a lot of people saying that Muse was simply a worse version of Radiohead (“how could Muse be a worse version of anything?” I thought to myself).  So, I looked up Radiohead, saw that OK Computer was their most acclaimed and recognized album, and decided to give it a shot.

Now this will sound really corny, but it’s true:  OK Computer changed me.  It wasn’t just that it was so beyond anything I had ever heard musically, but it was also the first music that I really felt spoke to me and my situation.  It wasn’t poppy the way the Britpop bands were and wasn’t focused purely on histrionics like Muse.  It was all emotion, and it was all the emotions that I was feeling and felt weren’t being articulated anywhere else.  And it almost instantly sent me down the path from being someone who just listened to some music to being someone that really cared about music.  In a sense, Radiohead (and other bands I grew attached to) replaced the friends I didn’t really have, which might be why I’m so passionate about my favorite artists.

Now, 4-5 years later, I don’t find myself listening to OK Computer as much, possibly because it’s inextricably linked to a time in my life that I’d rather forget.  But I’ll always be indebted to it, and whenever I listen to it again I’m reminded of how powerful it is.  When I hear someone complain that Radiohead is too sad or mopey for them, I just kind of shake my head and chuckle, because I know that they don’t get it and probably never will.  And it reconfirms that, despite their massive popularity, Radiohead is a band that seems like they made music just for me.

Favorite 90s Albums: #5 – Björk – “Homogenic”

At this point, it seems like Björk is one of those artists that is known for everything but the music she makes.  Instead, we primarily hear about how weird she is, the swan dress, the music videos, and the various multimedia work she does.  Talking to people my age, I sometimes feel like Björk is more of an abstract idea than an actual person:  She represents the dreaded “weird music,” the type that just “isn’t for me” or is “too out there” for them to enjoy.

Now certainly, a lot of this is because Björk is, in fact, weird.  But why is weirdness considered such a bad thing by so many people?  Personally, I’ve always thought weirdness was one of the most crucial attributes for a musician — I frankly have very little interest in hearing some normal guy or girl playing music.  I want to hear weirdos, the weirdest weirdos imaginable, the kind that make music because they’re so damn weird that music is the only thing they can do to keep what little shred of sanity they are still holding to.  I want weirdos that are so weird that even other weirdo musicians find them weird.

I love Björk because she is a special kind of weirdo, gifted with an incredible voice that is one of the wonders of the modern world, but also with a knack for the avant garde and a relentless creative ambition.  Obviously, her music won’t be everyone, but I think it’s far more accessible than most would think given all the second-hand things they often hear about her.

This brings me to Homogenic, which I consider to be the highlight of Björk’s magical career, and one that also represents one of the many changes in style for her.  After her first two solo albums, “Debut” and “Post”, played up her quirky pixie image, Homogenic departed from that, instead focusing on cool strings and beats to create a much more ominous and grandiose sound.  While “Post” was noted for being a hodge-podge of influences and styles, Homogenic was, as the title would suggest, a study of one sound.

That doesn’t mean the album is samey, but rather that it is incredibly consistent and cohesive while still having a lot of variety.  When it was released in 1997, Homogenic was on the cutting edge of pop, electronic, dance, and avant-garde music, and nearly 15 years later it still feels that way to me.  There are no dud tracks, and the album flows perfectly from each to the next, covering many different moods, from the looming opener “Hunter” to the magestic final track “All is Full of Love” (which, with its amazing robots-in-love music video, seems to be a precursor to just about all Pixar films).

 

In between, there are many other highlights that perfectly toe the line between accessibility and avant-garde.  “Jóga” is one of the career highlights for Björk, a stately dedication to a friend and her homeland of Iceland.  It’s likely the album’s most breathtaking moment and one of the most beautiful songs of the 90’s.

The most epic moment on the album is “Bachelorette,” which was conceived as a sequel of sorts to Post’s “Isobel.”  It has a huge, foreboding sound with its thudding beats and Björk’s voice soars even more than usual.  The music video, directed by Michel Gondry, is also one of the all-time greats (in general, the music videos of this album are fantastic and a testament to Björk’s appeal as an artist).

There are also quieter moments on Homogenic, including the lovely “Unravel”, as well as some of her more up-beat dance numbers like “Alarm Call”, which, like the rest of the album, also has great lyrics.  Although hearing Björk say “I’m no fucking buddhist” is always jarring, as she doesn’t seem like she should be capable of swearing.

Overall, this is one of my favorite electronic and pop albums and I find it to be a perfect summation of Björk’s strengths as an artist.  When people say they’re not sure if they’d like something like Björk, I usually tell them to listen to this album.  I don’t think they ever do, but if they did, they may be surprised at how beautiful the music is, and how authentic Björk is compared to some of today’s musicians who just put on a weird costume and are considered artists because of it.  Björk is the real deal, and I’ll always be a fan of her for that, even if others find her (and me) strange.

(Note: #6 in this series was Helium’s The Magic City.  Read all about it here: https://thenoisemadebypeople.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/helium-the-magic-city/)

Favorite 90s Albums: #7 – Spiritualized – “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space”

“Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space” is a colossal, heartbreaking album that came out of one of the most classic rock music traditions.  Before the album, Spiritualized frontman Jason Pierce had his heart broken by band member Kate Radley, who secretly married The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft.  Two of the best albums of the decade, The Verve’s “Urban Hymns” and this one were very likely written about Radley, who became like a britpop version of Pattie Boyd.

After enduring that experience, a lot of musicians would make a mute, plaintive record, baring their emotions that way.  What makes “Ladies and Gentlemen…” so great is that Pierce does just the opposite:  He brings in strings, horns, a gospel choir, and clearly does a whole lot of drugs in an attempt to drift as far away from his problems as possible.  In other words, he floats in space,  and he brings the listener with him.

Despite all those indulgences, everything about “Ladies and Gentlemen…” feels earned, in part because Pierce’s emotional core is always there in the songs.  It’s not an exercise in masturbatory excess the way some of the similar 70+ minute albums of the time period were.   For Pierce, who since his days in Spacemen 3 had specialized in drony, spaced out music, “Ladies and Gentlemen…” is his most triumphant artistic statement because, despite it’s space-rock sound, it is firmly grounded in reality.

The album has one of the greatest openers ever with the title track.  Kate Radley, who is still in the band at this point, says the opening words “ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space” for full ironic effect before the orchestral strings and Pierce’s echoing vocals come in.  The song borrows lyrics from the Elvis Presley song “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” which created some legal problems when the album was first released, but now the song can be experienced in its full glory thanks to a recent reissue and some changes in songwriting credit.

That song segues into the second track, “Come Together”, which is one of the most straight-forward rock songs Spiritualized have recorded.  In general, the album offers an ideal mix of Spiritualized’s drone and space rock tendencies with more straight-forward numbers, which is what helps make it the band’s masterpiece.  “All of My Thoughts” is one of the saddest songs on an already sad album, with Pierce lamenting “I don’t know what to do on my own/because all of my thoughts are with you,” after which the song explodes into spaced-out noise with squealing horns and guitar.

The centerpiece of the album is “Broken Heart,” which represents the peak of the album’s sadness.  Along with The Verve’s “The Drugs Don’t Work”, it’s one of the most relentlessly bleak songs of this era, thanks a beautiful seven minute string arrangement and Pierce’s rock bottom lyrics:  “I have a broken heart/but I’m too busy to be heartbroken.”  If anyone ever asks me what the saddest song ever is, this is usually one of my answers.

The album closes out with the 17 minute “Cop Shoot Cop…” and I can only hope that Pierce was able to exercise some of his demons with this record.  “Ladies and Gentlemen…” falls into what I like to call “experience albums.”  Listening to it takes you to a different place, which is one of the best things that music can do.  Spiritualized has never really reached this level of greatness before or since, but on this album everything clicked, and the result was one of the best heartbreak albums ever, as well as one of the finest arguments for using mind-altering substances to make music.

Favorite 90s Albums: #8 – Portishead – “Dummy”

 

Released in 1994, Portishead’s debut album Dummy is one of the most groundbreaking and influential albums of the decade.  Its sound — which, along with Massive Attack’s album Blue Lines was credited with inventing a downbeat electronica genre called “Trip Hop” — was relatively new, but the album is also notable for how it took disparate elements of music and made them into a cohesive whole.  On her own, singer Beth Gibbons would just be another mopey female singer-songwriter (albeit a very good one).  Her bandmates, Adrian Utley and Geoff Barrow, would just be two more British guys who like sampling from their large record collection, spy soundtracks, and hip hop beats.

Together, those forces create Dummy, and it’s one of the most fully realized debut albums from any band.  Perhaps more than any other, Dummy is able to evoke a very specific feeling of setting and mood — it’s hard to listen to its gloomy electronica sounds and distinct crackling vinyl without thinking of being a sad person walking the lonely streets of some foreboding town in the middle of the night while it’s raining.

A lot of Dummy‘s acclaim is based around the fact that it helped to popularize the “trip hop” genre.  However, Portishead rejected the term, and it’s hard to blame them.  It strikes me as one of those media buzz terms for a sound that doesn’t really have an actual scene attached to it. I tend to think of Portishead’s music as far too individual and unique to be associated with a larger genre, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that their music has aged better than most of the other stuff that was being labeled as “trip hop” around that time.

First and foremost, I think of Dummy as a tour de force by singer Beth Gibbons.  It’s fairly obvious at this point that I have a deep, perhaps disturbing love of female singers.  As a result, I’ve heard a lot of them, and I’m not sure if any gives as strong of a performance as Gibbons does on Dummy.  It’s not just that her voice is amazing, but also how she is able to bend it and twist it to fit so many moods within one album.  On one song, she’ll sound like a seductress (“Numb”).  On the next, she’ll sound like she just lost her best friend and all hope for living (“Roads”).

Barrow and Utley are able to craft the perfect compliment to Gibbons’ often heartbreaking songs with a variety of instruments and samples.  Opening track “Mysterons” uses a theremin better than any song since “Good Vibrations.”  “It’s a Fire” (a personal favorite that inexplicably wasn’t on the UK release of the album) has an organ and chilly strings to back Gibbons’ lament (she sings “this life is a farce” in the chorus).

Perhaps the best track is the closer, “Glory Box”, which is certainly the most sultry song on the album.  “Give me a reason to love you/give me a reason to be a woman” Gibbons croons over a rare Adrian Utley guitar solo.  While Dummy is mostly a bleak, depressing album, it at least ends on a vaguely hopeful note (kind of).

There’s an aura of mystery surrounding Portishead that I think, in a way, makes their music even better.  Little is known of Gibbons personally, as she’s shunned most interviews and rarely speaks of any motivation regarding her lyrics.  Not knowing exactly what she’s so sad about gives the songs a more universal feeling that lends more power to her words.  The band themselves have done a good job avoiding overexposure, as they’ve released just two albums since Dummy and seem mostly non-committal about recording another any time soon.  Given the strength of Dummy and their other releases, I think I’m okay with that.

St. Vincent – “Strange Mercy”

One of my favorite things in music is to hear a talented artist that finally puts the pieces together and begins to live up to their potential. On her forthcoming album “Strange Mercy”, which is currently streaming on NPR, Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) does just that, and in the process asserts herself as one of the top artists in music today.

Clark’s 2009 album, “Actor”, was one of my favorites of the last few years, and it established Clark as a unique voice and talent.  Yet, it was abundantly clear that the artist behind it was capable of doing a lot better.  For one thing, despite proving on stage that she is a tremendous guitar player, “Actor” was curiously devoid of many great guitar songs, with Clark instead focusing on disney-type strings that were only occasionally punctuated by noisy guitar blasts.  The songs were well crafted and enjoyable, but also frustratingly coy and conventional for someone that could be capable of rocking souls.

My desire for St. Vincent to embrace her inner rock goddess only intensified a few weeks ago, when she did an earsplitting cover of Big Black’s “Kerosene” at the This Band Could Be Your Life show at the Bowery Ballroom.  Rather than do a quirky, “unique” cover of the song, Clark instead opted to embrace Big Black singer Steve Albini’s misanthropic rage, and, while some may think it came off as phony, I thought she did a pretty admirable job on a song that seems really difficult to truly replicate.  It was the exact kind of thing I had been hoping to hear on “Strange Mercy.”

I am happy to report, then, that “Strange Mercy” fulfills what I wanted it to be, and I think it’s one of the best albums of the year.  In every way, I think it’s a quantum leap over “Actor” (which, again, I liked a lot).  Clark’s voice continues to develop, as she’s able to convey more emotion and sound less detached from her dense arrangements.  The lyrics are better too — still sinister like they were on “Actor”, but decidedly more personal.

Most of all though, “Strange Mercy” is weirder than “Actor”, and it’s much better off for it.  Clark continues to use strings, but rather than be the focus, they’re more of a complement to her guitar playing, which finally begins to shine on this album.  There’s funk undercurrents, like the synth solo at the end of “Surgeon”, which is one of the album’s surreal highlights.  All of the bizarre touches on “Actor” are ramped up here, and while it may drive some listeners that appreciated her poppy side (like on her first album “Marry Me”) away, I think it makes her music far more compelling.

Not that “Strange Mercy” doesn’t have its pop moments.  Lead single “Cruel” is one of the best songs of the year so far, and it showcases Clark’s unique ability to turn all of the sounds and influences into an accessible rock song.  While there are layers of strings and woodwinds, Clark’s guitar shines through with the repeated twangy riff and a couple solos in the middle and end.  It’s also one of the best music videos I’ve seen in a long time, as Clark gets literally buried by all of her domestic duties after getting kidnapped by her family.

On “Cheerleader”, maybe the most personal song Clark has ever written, she sings “I don’t want to be a cheerleader no more.”  That chorus, which explodes after the more delicate verses, is one of the best moments on the album, and in a truly hacky piece of music criticism, I decided that this was more than just a song about trying to stop being a pushover:  It was Clark rejecting the idea of being an indie pop princess.  Many had pegged “Strange Mercy” as a commercial breakthrough for her — and it still very well could be — but I think this music is far too weird, psychedelic, and sinister to be showing up the next iPod commercial.

My other favorite song is probably “Northern Lights”, which is the guitar song I’ve been waiting for from St. Vincent.  It’s pretty much pure noisy rock more in the vein of the Pixies or Breeders, with some roaring guitar solos and a constant build up to the end.  I think Clark could still use to sing more forcefully at times, and this one of the moments on the album where she approaches that idea more, particularly towards the end when she begins to sound more hysterical.

As good as “Strange Mercy” is, I think there’s still room for improvement for St. Vincent.  But this album proves that she’s someone who is going to follow her own muse and evolve musically, which is the most important thing to me.   Her ability to put that ambition into well crafted rock songs is a large part of what makes “Strange Mercy” one of the best, most exciting records of 2011 in my book.

Wild Flag

If you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning (which I can only hope you have been, for continuity reasons), you may have noticed that there’s been a distinct lack of actual new music on it.  This is sort of intentional:  While I’ve actually liked 2011 quite a bit and have been making a conscious effort to listen to a lot of new stuff, I still think that something has been missing from current music.  I’ve grown a bit jaded about how most of the hyped bands of the day all seem to chart the same influences, to be following the same basic formula, and constantly living in the past.

Enter Wild Flag, a four woman supergroup consisting of singer/guitarist Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney, Mary Timony from Helium and a solo career, and Rebecca Cole of the Minders.  Those names probably don’t mean a whole lot to many people reading this, but for me and many others its a dream collaboration, a veritable Traveling Wilburys of indie rock goddesses.  From day one, the band has had a massive amount of hype and expectations from rabid Sleater-Kinney fans, the kind like me who think rock music has been circling the drain since the band went on indefinite hiatus in 2006 following their colossal swan song, “The Woods.”

The expectations for Wild Flag are expected, but also unfair.  In reality, there’s no way the band could capture the unique chemistry and passion that defined Sleater-Kinney.  However, their debut album, which is streaming on NPR, is nonetheless an immensely satisfying collection of tunes that fills many of the gaps left empty by today’s indie kids.

See, Wild Flag make rock music.  Not “indie” rock or “noise” rock or whatever other lame qualifiers people seem to put in front of it now.  This is fun, energetic rock music that is never boring, and in today’s musical climate that qualifies as a revelation.  It doesn’t have the urgency of Sleater-Kinney or the dark combativeness of Helium; rather, it’s a pure, unpretentious showcase of everything that rock can offer from four women who know a lot about it.

A common knock on supergroups is that they’re more a collection of individuals than a cohesive band.  Wild Flag defies that, as they’re instantly able to craft a unique sound that separates themselves from their previous bands.  It’s a diverse collection of songs, from the almost power pop lead track and first single “Romance” to the woozy psychedelia of “Glass Tambourine”.  Brownstein and Timony mostly trade vocals and harmonies, and each brings a different energy to each song.

While the hype around Wild Flag has mostly surrounded the Sleater-Kinney semi-reunion, it’s actually Timony who may be the band’s MVP.  In the later days of Helium and the beginnings of her solo career, Timony flirted with being sort of an indie fantasy pixie girl, as she sang about magic and dragons and played quirky songs full of lush instrumentation.  She doesn’t do that on Wild Flag (although she does sneak a “dragonslayer” reference into “Electric Band”), but her more laid back, mystical qualities make a nice foil for Brownstein’s hyperactive wildness.  It’s illustrated on album closer “Black Tiles”, my favorite song so far, and the only one where they exchange lead vocals and put that duality on full display.  Both are also tremendously gifted guitar players and are able to rip a lot of memorable riffs and solos in each song.

Of course, Wild Flag is also anchored by Weiss, who continues to prove that she’s arguably the best rock drummer in music today.  I know absolutely nothing about drumming, but I can still tell that Weiss is really, really good at it, and she brings a ton of life to each song with her thunderous playing.  Rebecca Cole (who I’m mostly unfamiliar with) also gives the songs some extra bounce with her keyboards, which add an extra dimension that the group’s previous bands didn’t have.

In the end, Wild Flag meets their lofty expectations and provides an absolute treat for Sleater-Kinney fans like me that were too busy failing at life to get into them before they went on hiatus.  But beyond that, it’s possibly the most refreshing album of the year so far — a much needed shot of energy and life into the increasingly dull music landscape.