Tag Archives: sleater-kinney

i’d ride that racehorse. i’d ride it hard.

It’s been six months since I posted last.  Things have been a little crazy in this thing I comedically call “my personal life”.

BUT, what better way to signal my return than a clip of the first all female supergroup evahr: Wild Flag.

I.  Must.  See.  “Racehorse”.  Live.

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slow down, you move too fast

As I disembarked from my regular train this morning at the Montgomery station, I saw this ad for the new Palm Pre.  I normally ignore ads but this one struck me because it seemed to run counter to another mantra, upon which, as a dutiful child of the 80’s, I had been raised:

So Ferris told me that life moves quickly and if I don’t slow down, I’ll miss it.  Palm is telling me that they have a machine that allows me to keep up with the speed of life so that I don’t miss anything.  OMG!  You mean I don’t have to miss that awesome tweet from my friend telling me she’s late for work?  Where do I sign up?!?  I mean really, Palm.  Do you think people are that dumb?  You’re trying to trade on Ferris’ name yet your product is the anti-Ferris.

I’m not one for schedules.  I don’t like my days packed with things to do.  In fact, I hate to-do lists.  To the extent that I have any social life whatsoever it typically involves, at the most, one “event” in a day.  I have no tolerance for running from thing to thing, feeling rushed or otherwise stressed out that I am running late for something.  I don’t wear a watch, I rarely ever know what time or day it is, and keeping a calendar is a complete waste of time for me.  I just really hate being told that I have to be some “where” at some “time” to do some “thing.”

But obviously I’m a functioning adult, trained in the social norms and mores of the world.  I know I can’t take my “you can’t tell me what to do” ethos to it’s logical extreme, though believe me, I try.  So I keep a to-do list.  I check my phone for the time and date.  And I very reluctantly keep a calendar that I very rarely ever check.  You know, because you need to do these things in order to have a roof over your head, remain gainfully employed, and have friends.

As I think I’ve made clear in previous posts, I love song lyrics.  Song lyrics speak to me in the way that great prose speaks to readers and seminal philosophy texts speak to philosophers.  As such, I downloaded an app for my iPhone, PowerLyrics, which allows you to look up the song lyrics to any song currently playing on your phone.  It’s a great app, though not perfect by any means (sometimes the lyrics are wrong and it’s not great for obscure music).  One of my favorite things to do on weekends is to get some coffee, take Chase to Dolores Park, cop a squat, and just watch the lyrics scroll by as I listen to my tunes.  It’s meditative to me and often times, it’s like having a conversation with an old friend.  At least that’s how I feel an hour later when I get up to leave.

For the past week, I have been taking the F train home from my job in the Financial District.  By way of background, the most direct and quick way for me to get to and from work is the J Church train, which picks me up a half block from my house, runs underground and only has six stops.  It takes less than 20 minutes.  But on Monday, for some reason, I thought “well, I’m not in a hurry to get home, the sun is still out, and I’d like to just sit and listen to my iPod for a bit.”  So I’ve been taking the F, which is horribly unreliable (you can wait upwards of 45 minutes between trains), stops at Every. Single. Block., takes 30 minutes to ride, and then requires me to walk another five blocks to get home.  On average, it triples the length of my commute.

But I don’t care.  Because the F gives me more time with my music and, since it runs above ground, I can access PowerLyrics and just sink into the words of a lot of my favorite songs.  It makes a difference for me to both hear the songs and read the words.  I absorb so much more as a reader than a listener.

The past few days I actually didn’t end up accessing PowerLyrics.  I stood patiently in the chill evening wind on the little island in the middle of Market Street and Montgomery for 30 minutes, just people watching.  Men in questionably coordinated suits (really, I can’t think that GQ rubberstamped the blue blazer/olive slacks look) trying to hail cabs, women who could easily double for Banana Republic mannequins rushing to the underground stations with their purses, laptop bags, and small Kiehls/Banana Republic/Anthropologie paper bags that earlier this morning housed either their lunch or their heels, and the weary East Bay commuters, who slowly walked their way to their public transportation of choice, mentally buckling in for the additional hour and a half commute home.

Upon boarding the antique F trains, many of which have been beautifully restored, I took my seat, cranked my music, and stared out the window with an odd expression of bliss on my face.  I am the odd man out.  Everyone else on the train looks either lost (lots of tourists take the F to get to Union Square or the theater), weary, or just flat out annoyed at how slow the train is moving.  Not me.  I’m loving it.  I could live on this train.  “Take your time!”  I scream in my head.  I’m all good right here.

I love watching the City pass by as the train slowly makes its way down Market Street.  You get the hurried rush of workers lining the streets in the Financial District, annoyed drivers trying desperately to fight their way through traffic to get onto the Bay Bridge (thank God we’re not a honking town), the confused yet excited tourists walking at a glacial pace in Union Square, gawking at every damn window, the grimy Tenderloin, where things that I am totally unfamiliar with and have only seen on The Wire are happening all around, and then the fantabulous Castro, where the boys are just getting ready to do it up.  That’s where the F ends and that’s where I hop off, happily strolling to my house amid the faint smell of pot, bears walking their tiny dogs, and neighborhood locals circling the block, head on swivel, attempting to secure a parking spot.

These have been the best hours of my days.

Today, however, I had to work a bit late.  Not because my job was particularly onerous.  As it happens, it only took me seven days of work, wherein I’m kind of supposed to be in by 9am, to get back to my regular sleeping pattern of falling asleep between 3-4am and waking up at 10:30am.  In other words, I was late to work so I had to stay late to log my hours.  And, since I was up late, I was quite tired by the end of it all.  Walking back to the train I considered just taking the J home.  I was tired, I wanted to see my dog, lie down, and catch up on all the internet related stuff I missed all day.

Thankfully, something stopped me.  The F was calling my name.  So again, I waited in the cold for twenty minutes (keeping myself warm by dancing to “Turn It On” and even doing the handclaps — no really) and finally boarded the green and yellow car that finally pulled up.  I didn’t have the energy to marvel at the nuttiness of my city.  So I plopped down in a distractingly warm seat (seriously, dude who sat there before me, you should get your temperature checked), fired up my go-to playlist and settled in for the ride home.

The first song that came on was “Burn, Don’t Freeze” by…wait for it…Sleater-Kinney.  A perfectly fine song, but never one that I remember as a favorite.  As I sat and listened to the familiar guitar intro, I realized that I actually don’t know the words to this song.  And despite turning up the volume and straining to listen in, I couldn’t make out the words in any meaningful way.  Sometimes this doesn’t bother me.  I can listen to a song and not have a full understanding of the lyrics.  It doesn’t necessarily bother me.  But something about this song was bothering me.  Well, “bothering” is probably not the right word.  But in that moment I was drawn to it.

“Burn, Don’t Freeze” is written in a style that Sleater-Kinney perfected: It is literally two songs at once.  Carrie and Corin sang on top of each other with melody and counter-melody, each with different words.  That in and of itself wasn’t enough to compel me to crack the song.  But two elements stood out: (1) I always want to know what Carrie’s singing because I think she has a way with words and wit and (2) Carrie and Corin’s vocal affects were flipped.  Normally Carrie has a very disaffected and unemotive way of singing and Corin, even when she belts it, has a sweetness or emotion to her voice.  But even though I didn’t know what they were singing about, on this song, Carrie sounded like she was purposefully singing rather sweetly and Corin sounded, well, pissed or bitter about something.  Hence my curiosity peaked.  As their disparate vocal styles, melodies, and lyrics intertwined I realized that purely listening wasn’t going to help me solve this song.

Frustrated, I fired up PowerLyrics.  As I read the lyrics, a slow grin crept across my face.  Remember, Carrie and Corin are singing simultaneously.  You can listen to the album version here.

Carrie: I’d set your heart on fire, but arson is no way to make a love burn brighter.  Always thought that the devil was the only one who knew the ins and the outs of the ways of love.  So I sold off my heart to see how this would end.  Now I can’t move an inch for fear it will begin.
Corin: When you saw me on that first day, said I’d blossom under your care.  Wrap me up tight inside your wing.  Is it safe now, is it safe to breathe?

Carrie: You come in between me and the darkness.  Please don’t you ever leave.
Corin: I force my eyes open and now who has changed?  You look different, so different today.

Corin: Holding your eyes in the hardest stare.  Running around like you wanted me there.  Looking at me like I’m the hottest in town, then turning your back when you’re moving around.
Carrie: Backwards, forwards going out of my mind, spinning way off time.
Corin: I ain’t gonna listen to you no more. Breaking outta this place throwing open the door. Use me up just to fan the flame.  But you’ll be sorry as I’m walking away.
Carrie: Fire to water, baby’s putting me out.

Carrie: You’re the truest light I’ve known.  But someday I’ll learn I don’t need your fuel to burn.  Always thought that hell was the only place hot enough to melt our hearts into a locked embrace.  There’s something so safe about a lack of air.  It’s the only way to make sure that you’ll always be there.
Corin: I’m the one who decides who I am.  I’m the one who will shed this old skin.  I force my eyes open, and now who has changed?  I feel different, so different today.

Carrie: We’re buried underground.  That’s where these hearts are found. Devil spins this world around.  Only Love can save us now.  Do you want to go underground?  Lay buried underground?
Corin: I’m gone!  I’m gone!  I’m gone!  I’m gone!
Corin: Don’t you wanna
Carrie: Did you really change your mind?
Corin: Ain’t you gonna?
Corin: Was this fire way too bright?
Corin: Don’t you wanna?
Carrie: Could this be your only crime?
Corin: Ain’t you gonna?
Carrie: Did you really change your mind?

 

I listened to this song on repeat at least 6 times, scrolling through the lyrics on each.  I would listen to Carrie’s part all the way through.  Then I would focus on Corin’s.  Then Carrie’s.  Then Corin’s.  Then try and process both together.  It was so much fun and it turned, what was otherwise a minor SK cut, to one of my favorite SK songs.  Because I had only caught bits and pieces of the lyrics on my prior listenings, I had no idea this was a love on the rocks/break-up song.  I had no idea how poetic Carrie’s lyrics were.  She sounds so desperate and needy (“You’re the truest light I’ve known.  But someday I’ll learn I don’t need your fuel to burn.  Always thought that hell was the only place hot enough to melt our hearts into a locked embrace.  There’s something so safe about a lack of air.  It’s the only way to make sure that you’ll always be there.”) and Corin’s so fucking bitter (“Looking at me like I’m the hottest in town, then turning your back when you’re moving around.”).  It’s so awesome.  I was feeling the high I get after discovering a new band or song that I never knew existed.  I literally skipped home, I was so excited.

I never would have experienced this had I just lazily taken the J home.  But thankfully, I broke my usual patterns and habits and my penchant for meandering about by myself, wanting to feel the pulse and rhythms of the City, not feeling wedded to a timetable or what was “sensible” created this moment for me.  I’m really grateful for that.

With the developments in technology there’s so much pressure to compress as much as possible into our waking hours.  And while that might work for some people it doesn’t work for everyone.  I am constantly amazed at how heeding that not-so-small voice in my head that screams “HOLY SHIT! SLOW THE FUCK DOWN!  WHAT’S THE RUSH???” often leads to those moments where I feel most alive and at peace with my life and with myself.  Getting caught in the race, I’m definitely guilty of  thinking that to do = doing something = living life.  Thus I must “do” as much as possible.  Otherwise, what evidence is there that I was here?  But sometimes, not doing anything, relaxing, and letting life take you wherever it goes *is* living.

Fuck Palm.  Ferris had it right the whole time.

PS — Dear dude who laughed at me when I did my little handclap dance.  I’m glad that me, my iPhone, and Sleater-Kinney were able to bring a smile to your face.

no, you may not name your band after a tampon brand

It’s Friday night, I’m marginally sober, and I have a quiet house to myself (the roommate has left to play some game called “flip cup”.  To quote Amy Poehler as Dakota Fanning, “I’m unfamiliar.”).  These are rare moments.  Rare moments that must be cherished the only way I know how — By doing the same thing I would normally do on a Friday night:  watching Gilmore Girls and surfing YouTube clips.

Wait, what?  Elvis Costello with Jenny Lewis *and* Zooey Deschanel?  Indie essposion.

A pre-Janet Sleater-Kinney, which means a pre-breakup Carrie and Corin.  Carrie puts her head on Corin’s shoulder.  In the middle of a song.  A punk song.  Oddly adorable especially because Corin doesn’t even react.  If someone tried to do that to me while I was playing I’d probably bonk them in the eye with my shoulder.  Cuz I’m warm and cuddly like that.

The New Pornographers are one of my favorite bands and they have a new album coming out in a few months.  I had never seen this 2003 Letterman performance of my favorite song.  I’ve always thought one of the biggest coups in indie rock was A.C. Newman (the lead singer and band leader) convincing Neko Case to join the band.

PS — A.C., you are way cuter now that you’re tubby and bearded.

Another one of my favorite Canadian bands, Broken Social Scene, also has a record coming out soon.  BSS are a collective/Supergroup made up of up to 17 people at a time.  Seeing them live at Lollapallooza was seriously a life-changing moment.  And this is the song “Anthems (For A Seventeen Year Old Girl)” that left me mesmerized, pulled me in, and made me a BSS fan forever.  I’ve been chasing the high from that concert ever since.  This performance, with Emily Haines (Metric), Amy Milian (Stars), and Feist is fantastic.

I bought The Stills first album “Logic Will Break Your Heart” solely based on the title.  I knew nothing about the band except that they were from Canada.  But the album title hit me like a ton of bricks.  As it turned out, that album would be on constant rotation on my iPod and in my car for most of 2004 and 2005.  They’ve had some lineup changes since then and they kind of suck now.  But that first album, along with this song “Still In Love Song” are still very close to my heart.

Jennifer Knapp.  I will probably do a separate post on Jen Knapp, who has returned after a 5+ year hiatus wherein she disappeared to Australia to work in a pawn shop to get away from making music.  She’s returned, will put out a new album in a few months, and it looks like she got a tattoo.  For a good two years of college, the only music I listened to was Jen Knapp, Jars of Clay, Caedmon’s Call, and Deliriou5, all Christian artists with amazing musicality.

But Jen in particular was, like, my voice.  She was able to channel everything that I had ever felt, wanted to feel, thought, or wanted to say about my faith.  I bought a Taylor because of her.  I started songwriting and singing in earnest because of her.  In the same way that Kathleen Hanna totally influenced me as I was going through my adolescence and learning what it meant to be a woman in the world, Jen Knapp served the same role during my formative years as a Christian.  She was a huge inspiration and still is.  I’m so happy she’s back making music and I hope that she’s doing so without the Christian banner.

Speaking of Jars of Clay.  I blame them for my default strum pattern, which is basically the strum pattern from “Flood”.  But I do thank them for introducing me to alternate tunings and creative capo work.  And to this day I can recite the prayer at 3:40-5:00.  I spent a lot of time listening to this song in dark when I was in college.

I’ve only recently come to discover Kleenex/Liliput, a Swiss post-punk XX band from the late 70’s and early 80’s.  My favorite label, Kill Rock Stars, just re-released their albums and I’m loving it.  An all-female post-punk band that sings in both German and English, toured with The Slits, The Raincoats, and Gang of Four, and was sued by Kimberly-Clark for using the name Kleenex?  What’s not to love?

And that was my YouTube adventure for the night.

I.  Love.  YouTube.

in praise of lyric sheets

So in my quest to start buying music in physical form as opposed to “digital rights” form, I’ve been hitting a few used record shops in San Francisco, namely the all famous Amoeba Music in the Haight and Rasputin’s in Union Square.  I used to go to the East Bay counterparts in Berkeley and Concord when I was in high school.  No doubt Amoeba had a far superior selection and was well-organized, but Rasputin had some fantastic deals (lots of $1 albums) and because is not organized well you could find some great hidden records if you took the time to hunt.

Which I did.

I probably should have actually flipped through my vinyl collection before hitting up Amoeba to refresh my memory as to what I already owned.  I didn’t and thus I now own two copies of Laura Nyro’s “Gonna Take A Miracle”, which is a great soul album that I love, obviously.

But I’ve been having a blast flipping through albums, aisle after aisle, for hours on end (I think I must have been in Amoeba for over four hours).  One of the more difficult tasks has been determining what albums I love vs. albums I want to buy.  And one piece of this criteria is whether or not that vinyl comes with a lyric sheet or lyrics printed on the back.

When I was a kid there was nothing better than getting a CD home, ripping it open, popping it into my CD player, and lying on my stomach on the floor and reading the lyrics along with each song on repeat.  To this day I can recite entire songs and albums from memory.  But with the advent of digital music I don’t do that anymore and I really can’t say that I can recall too many lyrics for any song I’ve bought over the past 10 years.

Of course most people will roll their eyes and tell me “Courtney, it’s called the internet.  Use it.”  Yes, obviously we can all find lyrics on the internet now and that’s how I normally do it.  In fact, I have two apps on my iPhone solely dedicated to displaying  the lyrics of any song playing on my iPod.

But, as I learned yesterday, the internet can be wrong.  No, really!  Stay with me!

One of my favorite Sleater-Kinney songs (I know, I know, I’ll stop talking about them eventually) is “Get Up”.  And for the longest time I thought Corin sang the following line: “Is there Splenda?  I am not ashamed.”  That was a really really weird line in the context of Sleater-Kinney, a band famous for singing about the negative female image issues.  “Corin’s singing about her love for Splenda?  Weird.”  Then again, I also thought it was kind of a cheeky line so I just went with it.

Then yesterday I bought “All Hands On The Bad One” on vinyl and looked at the lyric sheet as I was sipping at a coffee shop next to Amoeba called Rock’n Java.  There it was in black and white: “Is there splendor?  I’m not ashamed.”

Well, shit.  That makes a whole lot more sense.

I had a similar Facebook discussion with a friend of mine who thought that in “Skinny Love”, Bon Iver sings,

I told you to be patient
I told you to be fine
I told you to be embarrassed
I told you to be kind

I on the other hand thought he sang, in the third line, “I told you to be balanced.”  Well I bought “For Emma, Forever Ago” yesterday and can confidently report that I’m right.

In addition to correcting my understanding of certain song lyrics, I was also reminded that sometimes lyrics don’t strike you until you see them in print.  One of the CDs I bought yesterday was a used copy of The Go-Betweens’ “Bellavista Terrace: The Best of The Go-Betweens”.  The Go-Betweens are a great 80s cult band from Australia who never made it big despite the fact that they sound a bit like The Smiths (especially with Robert Forrster sings) and write devastatingly beautiful lyrics.  I discovered them a few years ago after one of their members passed away and I’ve been re-listening to their albums(which I own digitally) a lot lately.

Flipping through the CD booklet I was completely floored, for what felt like the first time, by the beauty of their lyrics:

“And what will I miss?  Her cruelty, her unfaithfulness, her fun, her love, her kiss.” — “Part Company”

“‘When a woman learns to walk she’s not dependent anymore.’  A line from her letter; May 24” — “Bye Bye Pride”

“When the rain hit the roof with the sound of a finished kiss, like when a lip lifts from a lip.” — “The Wrong Road”

I had read these lyrics before on the internet, but something about seeing them on paper made them resonate even more.  Perhaps because it made them feel more personal.  These were words that were written down by these men, and not just digitally cataloged by strangers on the web.  I was so moved by these lyrics I kept pulling the album out as I was out with friends at bars and restaurants last night, waxing poetic about the lyrics and reading them aloud to anyone who would listen.  It was like I was high.

I’m such a nerd.  And not a particularly good dinner companion when I get in these obsessive moods.

But anyway.  Yay for lyric sheets and CD booklets.  They *do* serve more than just a practical purpose and they’re not a waste of trees.  They can completely transform how you experience a song or an album.

Oh, and while I’m at it, can I just throw in another plug for buying albums for album artwork?  Again, going back to S-K, I had previously only owned most of their albums in digital form.  For “The Hot Rock”, the cover of the album just looks like the band standing on a sidewalk hailing a cab.  Uh, ok.  I don’t really get it but sure.  Now, looking at the album, Carrie actually has a huge diamond ring on her finger that is sparkling rather brightly.  The back of the album is black and has nothing more than a huge diamond in the middle.  It’s only when I saw the album artwork that I remembered that Robert Redford had a diamond-heist movie called “The Hot Rock”.  Take all this along with the lyrics of the title track (which uses a diamond heist as a metaphor for a crap relationship) and it opens up a whole new understanding of the song, the artwork, and the album’s themes.  It’s a shame that artists do put a lot of effort and care into album artwork to further their artistic thematic vision and nowadays we completely ignore it because digital music often doesn’t give you the complete picture.

Anyway, I’m loving this music hunt.  I feel like a kid again.

obsession, thy name is sleater-kinney

Confession: I’m really fed up with current music these days.  Sure, there are some catchy tunes out there, but I feel like everything’s just candy.  I crave it, it tastes good, and then it’s over.  I never remember it and it leaves no mark (except for my regrettable expanding waistline).  This applies to pop like Lady Gaga and it applies to the stuff that’s supposed to be right in my wheelhouse, bearded hipster music in the vein of Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver.  Even the “edgy” dancy hipster music of MGMT doesn’t really do it for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love it.  But it’s just not revelatory to me.  It’s just…there.  As a result, I’ve been diving back into my 25k+ iTunes library in hopes of rediscovering old music.  And boy, did it work.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Sleater-Kinney.

I’ve always been a Sleater-Kinney fan, but as I’m realizing now, not in the way I should have been.  But before I get into that, a little background:

Sleater-Kinney are a three-woman outfit based out of Portland, Oregon (or PDX as the locals and those of us who grew up during the riot grrrl era know it).  They have two singer/guitarists in Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein, and a drummer, Janet Weiss.  I say “have” but that’s technically incorrect.  S-K have been on an indefinite hiatus since August 2006.  I’m actually quite proud to say that I saw their last show outside of PDX, at Lollapalooza 2006.  It was awesome.

Separate and apart from their music, which I’ll get to in a bit, the women of S-K are totally inspiring.  Janet was actually S-K’s fifth drummer.  She only started playing drums at 22 years old and she was working at an ad agency when she heard that S-K were looking for a new drummer.  She auditioned, Carrie and Corin loved her and the rest is history.  She quit her job to be the drummer of this indie band.  Uh, AWESOME.

As for Carrie and Corin, that’s a bit complicated.  They both came out of the riot grrrl scene that was spawned at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington in the early 90’s.  Corin, daughter of a college professor, was a founding member of Heavens to Betsy, one of the seminal riot grrrl bands, along with Bikini Kill and Bratmobile.  Carrie, a hyperarticulate sociolinguistics major, transferred to Evergreen, started a band called Excuse 17, and after meeting Corin and realizing they were musical soulmates,  both disbanded their bands and formed S-K (named after the highway exit that led to their practice space).  Carrie and Corin dated for a while and then broke up.  And let me tell you, I’m always obsessed with bands that have that dynamic (Fleetwood Mac, No Doubt, Rilo Kiley, just to name a few).

But aside from that gossip side of things, both women are intelligent, well-spoken, and well-read.  Corin is now a mom, raising her son Marshall with her husband Lance.  Carrie has moved on and is now a music blogger on NPR.  You can hear her on their All Songs Considered podcasts.  Want a fun drinking game?  Do a shot everytime she uses the words “insouciant” or “visceral” to describe artists and music.  She’s also done a bunch of interviews and published articles in McSweeney’s Believer magazine.  I love reading her writing.

And if that’s not enough to solidify Carrie’s “awesome” quotient, she’s 1/2 of the comedy duo ThunderAnt.  The other half? Fred Armisen.

Loved this.  “Clementine.  Valentine.  Columbine.  The flower not the high school massacre.”  And “Ringo Starr???”

But back to the music, because really, that’s the whole point of this.  There are really two albums you need to know when it comes to S-K, and they’re both markedly different, yet similar: Dig Me Out and The Woods.  Dig Me Out, released in 1999, was their coming out party.  It’s been cited as one of the top records of the decade and it is pure unadulterated punk/rock.  It led to them being named by Time as America’s Best Rock Band in 2001.  The Woods was their last album, released in June 2005.  It took all their punk albums and threw them out.  It is pure unadulterated ROCK.  Like, Zeppelin style.

And that’s really what I think has been missing from music lately.  Music that RAWKs.  Wailing, shredding, ear bleeding, ROCK.  And for me, I have a hard time letting “Dude Rock” wash over me.  It’s so testosterone laden that it makes me uncomfortable.  Like the music is going to rape me.  That’s where Sleater-Kinney come in.  It’s balls out rock sung and played by women.  Just to be clear, they’re not just good for “girls.”  They’re good for anyone, regardless of gender.

To be fair, as I write this, I am acutely aware that many of you will click on these links, hear Corin’s voice and turn it off.  That’s totally fair.  Corin has one of the most distinctly polarizing voices of the past 20 years.  You either love it or hate it.  It is gutteral.  I have no idea how she makes that sound.  Whereas Kathleen Hanna (of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre) has this angry screeching voice, Corin’s carries so much more emotion.  Whether she’s singing about a break up (One More Hour, apparently written about Carrie), contemplating suicide off the Golden Gate Bridge (Jumpers), or just fucking wailing (Wilderness, Dig Me Out), her voice is so damn interesting.  It’s a voice that refuses to be relegated to the background while you’re cleaning the house.  It demands your attention and it can either slay you or infuriate you and force you to shut it off.  As Carrie has said, it’s not music that’s meant to be played at the Gap.  It’s disorienting in every way.

I think people will feel the same way about Carrie’s voice and guitar.  She’s come a long way from her meeker vocals from early S-K albums (stepping aside to let Corin shine, justifiably) to commanding the same attention by the time The Woods came along.  Her vocal performance on “Entertain” sounds like she’s about to become unhinged, which is exactly what the song demands. As for her guitar playing, I love it.  It has angular quality that has somehow morphed into a classic rock style.  Rolling Stone listed her as one of the 25 most underrated guitarists, ranking her as the highest woman on the list.

All this is to say, I love Sleater-Kinney.  Listening to them this second time around, I’m completely slayed.  During numerous conversations with family this Christmas weekend, all I could think was how much all I wanted to do was go into my room, throw on my headphones and listen to One More Hour, a song that I listened to on loop after I broke up with a certain boy.  Or just watch YouTube clips of Corin wailing on Jumpers, marveling at how that voice came to be. You know those moments where you’re in a social situation and all you want to do is get a drink?  That’s how I felt about S-K all week.

So here’s my attempt to convert you all to S-K fans.  I know it won’t work.  I’m convinced it won’t work.  But I’d be remiss if I didn’t try.

You’re No Rock ‘n Roll Star.  S-K with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Jumpers, which was based on this New Yorker article.  I’m really into lyrics so this song is great.

I spend the afternoon in cars
I sit in traffic jams for hours
Don’t push me
I am not OK

The sky is blue most every day
The lemons grow like tumors they
Are tiny suns infused with sour

Lonely as a cloud
In the Golden State
“The coldest winter that I ever saw
Was the summer that I spent…”

The only substance is the fog
And it hides all that has gone wrong
Can’t see a thing
Inside the maze

There is a bridge adored and famed
The Golden spine of engineering
Whose back is heavy
With my weight

Be still this old heart
Be still this old skin
Drink your last drink
Sin your last sin
Sing your last song
About the beginning
Sing it out* loud
So the people can hear
Let’s Go
Be still this sad day
Be still this sad year
Hope your last hope
Fear you last fear
You’re not the only one
Let’s Go

My falling shape will draw a line
Between the blue of sea and sky
I’m not a bird
I’m not a plane

I took the taxi to the gate
I will not go to school again
Four seconds was
The longest wait

Dig Me Out, considered one of the best punk songs of the last 20 years.

Modern Girl, showing off the sarcastic and quieter side of S-K. I’ve heard that this song gets played at weddings.  People are just…dumb.

Entertain.  Jesus.  Carrie’s vocals are bomb but so are Corin’s.  When she comes in on the chorus I get chills.  And again, the lyrics are fantastic:

So you want to be entertained?  Please look away
We’re not here ’cause we want to entertain.  Please go away (don’t go away)
Reality is the new fiction, they say
Truth is truer in these days, truth is man-made
If you’re here cause you want to be entertained
Please go away

If you’re heart is done, Johnny get your gun
Join the rank and file, on your TV dial

You come around looking 1984 // You’re such a bore, 1984
Nostalgia, you’re using it like a whore // It’s better than before
You come around sounding 1972 // You did nothing new with 1972
Where is the fuck you?
Where’s the black and blue

Hey! Look around they are lying to you
Can’t you see it is just a silly ruse?
They are lying, and I am lying too.
All you want is entertainment,
Rip me open it’s free

1, 2, 3! If you wanna take a shot at me, get in line
1, 2, 3! I’ve had all my shots and I’m fine

1, 2, 3! If you haven’t had enough of me, well get in line, line
1, 2, 3! You too deserve it now, it’s all right

1, 2, 3! We can drown in mediocrity, it feels sublime
1, 2, 3! It feels like someone pushed the rewind

1, 2, 3! Give it to me easily, my feeble mind needs time
1, 2, 3! Make it sweet and syrupy with rhyme

[Don’t drag me down,
I’m not falling down]

The grip of fear is already here
The lines are drawn,
Whose side are you on?

Good Things, one of my favorites.  It’s hard to really pick a favorite.  I think mine is “Entertain”.  But thins one is close.

Anyway, that’s Sleater-Kinney.  I could go on, but clearly I already have.