I have this weird quirk with listening to music. If I haven’t listened to a band and they already have more than four or five albums out, I’m less likely to check them out. I think it has something to do with feeling overwhelmed by the band’s back catalogue. For some reason, I feel like I have to listen to every album in their discography before I can appreciate their newest album. Sometimes I can get over this notion if there is something that piques my interest about the album or band, and this is absolutely the case with Sleater-Kinney’s No Cities to Love. It also helped that much of the internet was very excited by the arrival of a new Sleater-Kinney album and that Carrie Brownstein, guitarist and vocalist for the band, is super funny on Portlandia.
To be honest, I wasn’t into Sleater-Kinney in their prime. My buddy Nick introduced me to their album, The Woods, back in 2005, but at that time, I was more interested in Reel Big Fish and trying to teach myself the trumpet so I could one day be in a Ska band. I was pretty ambitious back then. Anyways, I don’t think my musical taste buds had developed to Sleater-Kinney level at that time.
Cities to Love is one of those albums that just seamlessly moves from song to song. Usually, the first couple of times I listen to an album I play it from beginning to end, but after that, I usually just put the album on shuffle. WIth Cities, I can’t do that because the song placement works so well, the songs are very catchy, and the album is pretty brief.
There is also something about the way Sleater-Kinney is so inclusive with their songwriting that makes them so appealing. There are multiple songs that use the pronoun “we” in the lyrics. Maybe Sleater-Kinney is just talking about themselves, but I get the feeling that they are including the listeners and fans too. On “Surface Envy,” Brownstein sings “We win, we lose/ Only together do we break the rules/ We win, we lose/ Only together do we make the rules.” One track later on “New Wave” the lyrics are “No one here is taking notice/ No outline will ever hold us/ It’s not a new wave, it’s just you and me.” I can’t put my finger on exactly what the band is trying to get across. It feels like one broad message is the idea that humanity has to work together to make change and solve its problems.
Altogether, there is a lot to enjoy about this album even if, like me, you haven’t followed Sleater-Kinney’s entire career.