On New Year’s Eve, everyone on Earth, it seemed, kicked 2017 unceremoniously to the curb, offering good riddance and hopes for a better 2018.
And by the evening of Jan. 2, we were all stressed from fear of global nuclear annihilation after another reckless tweet from the President of the United States.
But that day in between? It was pretty good! Time off work (for many). A great football game on TV. And best of all, a surprise new album called POST- from punk-rock lifer Jeff Rosenstock, former Bomb the Music Industry! member and one the most magnetic personalities in underground music.
He’s also a staunch DIY dude, as evidenced by his POST- rollout. There was no promotional push. No carefully timed song premieres. No countdown on social media. Just a link (posted by Jeff after a night of partying, apparently) to stream and/or download a new 10-track album for whatever price you’re willing to pay. Along with it: An announcement that he has signed to Polyvinyl Records, which will release physical versions later this year.
Like his breakthrough 2015 solo album We Cool? and its 2016 follow-up, WORRY., POST- is packed with hooky pop-punk jams that beg for singalongs and fray at the edges. According to Rosenstock, it was recorded with friends in secret, and finished just before it was released. You can hear all of that in these songs, which crackle with urgency and fun. POST- feels less like an album and more like a document of tightly knit people working hard to make something that feels cathartic and good.
It also contains a couple of places where Rosenstock stretches out a bit. One is the first real song (after a short spoken-word intro), “USA,” which evolves from guitar chugger to synth interlude to gang-vocal coda in the space of seven and a half minutes. “You promised us the stars,” Rosenstock sings near the end of the song, “and now we’re tired and bored.”
As usual, Rosenstock’s lyrics on POST- revolve around anxiety, insecurity, anger, ennui and other bummers of day-to-day life. “I can’t find any way to relax. I can’t do anything,” he sings on “Yr Throat,” a galloping punk song with a killer cascading chorus. “I can’t do anything of impact.” And in “All This Useless Energy,” in between power-strums and feedback squalls, he worries that settling down will suck the joy out of his life. He’s not the first person to feel that way, of course, but he’s better at expressing in through a Weezer-ish chorus than most.
Fear of loneliness recurs throughout POST-, on the punky “Powerlessness” and “Melba” and “TV Stars,” a warm piano ballad and welcome palate cleanser. And like most of us, Rosenstock is feeling uneasy and defiant about our current political situation, and that feeling surfaces here and there. “Powerlessness” sets flash grenades and street marches against light-speed acoustic punk, while “Beating My Head Against A Wall” is a bouncy, New Wave backdrop for conflicted feelings. “All I wanna see is peace,” he sings, “but I wanna fight you with every little bit of me.”
The other place on POST- where Rosenstock stretches his music beyond the boundaries of pop-punk is its closing track, “Let Them Win” (as in: “we’re not gonna”), which blossoms from a simple, earth-moving riff into a skyscraping shower of “oooohhhs” and “aaaahhhs” and a buzzy, stuttering guitar solo. After six minutes of sweaty resistance, the song lands softly in a five-minute Eno-esque ambient chill zone.
Is it necessary? Not really. But it is nice! A nice, chill place to unwind after 10 tracks of bruising pop, barely veiled rage, bloody fingernails and biting optimism that we didn’t even know existed four days ago. Jeff Rosenstock albums are always a wild ride. Turns out they’re a darn good way to start a new year, too.