I don’t think I’m alone in being late to the Carrie Brownstein show. Sure, I know her awesomeness has been well known to the cool kids for a long, long time. I even knew her band Sleater-Kinney existed and was pretty sure I’d like them. I just never got around to them. Then came Portlandia, an out of nowhere sketch show starring a dude from Saturday Night live and the chick from that band I’d heard of, was pretty sure I’d like, but just never got around to.
Portlandia immediately made me a massive fan of Brownstein and I got into here then current band, Wild Flag. Aside from some Youtubing of random songs, I was still slow in getting on board with Sleater-Kinney. But better late than never, I listened to their swansong, The Woods (well, it was their sing, until their reunion album was recently announced).
Out of the gate, The Woods is loud, urgent and soaring with The Fox. Like a lot of what I have heard from Sleater-Kinney, the rhythms can be staccato, the guitars jerky and the vocals big. And it’s combo that works to create a really unique rock sound that you won’t hear from any other band.
On What’s Mine is Yours, that signature sound is given an almost blues treatment. And it’s amazing how well the in your face vocals still work, when the guitars and drums are pulled right back to their simplest core. It’s almost tribal final third is an even more surprisingly effective combo of seemingly disparate elements that somehow come together as one.
Built on two guitars, drums and a complete absence of bass, it’s amazing how well Sleater-Kinney fills that sonically low area of sound usually sorted out by the four string. Especially since their all girl membership means all girl vocals. The bass guitar can sometimes be overlooked for what it adds to a band’s sound. But often when it’s gone, there’s a noticeable gap in the overall sound. Here, the guitars of Brownstein and Corin Tucker manage to keep that gap at bay with a sludgy, fat sound that porvides a solid foundation.
And it’s not just the guitars that fill out the sound either. Tucker’s howling vocals sound like they’re capable of flying off the album at any moment. Perfectly encapsulated on a song like Let’s Call it Love, it’s an almost dangerous sound that keeps every song on its toes. While Brownstein might offer a little less in the way of hair metal wails, her percussive vocal style brings its own edge to Sleater-Kinney.
An awesome double to close out The Woods, Let’s Call it Love and Night Light were apparently recorded together in one take, and it’s a cohesion that just works. While Let’s Call it Love is an 11 minute rock epic, it segues seamlessly into the more restrained Night Light. It’s heavy aesthetic and feelings of being held back make it, along with Let’s Call it Love, a great encapsulation of everything right about The Woods.