There’s a clear case to be made that the best way to hear music is, simply, to listen. Discard expectations; consume the sound coming from the speaker; note how you feel. The end. Another way is to place it in its context: Learn about its creators, its genre, its lineage, what it’s attempting, what it’s implying. The divide between those two ways of hearing may seem stark—after all, isn’t it purest to teach the text, separate the art and the artist, forget authorial intention, and so on? Sleater-Kinney’s new album shows the inevitability, and the helpfulness, of relating what’s outside the music to what’s inside it.

The punk band’s ninth studio album is also their second one since ending a 10-year hiatus in 2015 with the acclaimed No Cities to Love. Sleater-Kinney’s music—flowing from the ’90s riot grrrl scene and since pivotal in the world of indie rock—has been defined by tense and wild interplay between the singer-guitarists Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker and the drummer Janet Weiss. Those three women have had not only a sound but also a social significance, upholding female rage—and vulnerability, and politics—in rock. The new album, The Center Won’t Hold, was produced by Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent, the experimental guitar-pop wizard of 2000s cult fame. Their collaboration built positive buzz, but a month and a half before the album’s release, a dissonant chord sounded. Weiss announced she was leaving Sleater-Kinney, writing, “The band is heading in a new direction and it is time for me to move on.”

Theoretically, this turn of events shouldn’t really affect the listening experience. Weiss played on and helped write The Center Won’t Hold, making it a full-fledged, three-member Sleater-Kinney affair. There’s a lot to recommend it—and a lot that, if you didn’t know the backstory, wouldn’t …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Best of


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