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Album review: Jeff Rosenstock – POST-

On his third solo album, Jeff Rosenstock lets you know right off the bat what sort of place he’s in mentally. POST- opens with Rosenstock singing, “Dumbfounded, downtrodden and dejected/Crestfallen, grief-stricken and exhausted.” The majority of this album was written during and about the days, weeks, and months following the election of Donald Trump, and boy, does it show. POST- is the sound of a guy who’s always been prone to angst and malaise suddenly having real issues to worry about, and rising to the occasion with aplomb- even if, as he says, his voice sometimes gets stuck inside his throat.

Of course, this is a Jeff Rosenstock album, which means the whole thing is coated in a thick layer of scruffy, defiantly upbeat power-pop. While it’s comparatively more downbeat than its stellar predecessor, WORRY., this is still an album that tempers its themes of political and personal strife with relentlessly fun instrumentals and plenty of catchy hooks. The end of “USA” might be a wounded cry of betrayal- “Et tu, USA?”- but it’s delivered like a cheerleading chant, with all the pep to match, and ends up feeling as much like a party as it does a riot.

Rosenstock may have plenty of musical firepower backing him up here, but the real draw of POST- is the man himself. His writing is as cleverly economical as ever, always finding the fastest, simplest way to land an emotional gut-punch of a line, whether it’s the bitter, disillusioned refrain of “TV stars” or the furious choral breakdown halfway through “Yr Throat.” Rosenstock’s vocals are only getting better and more expressive with time, too, and he seems a bit more comfortable reaching into his lower range on tracks such as “Powerlessness” and the understated “9/10”.

Still, despite all its strengths, POST- ends up feeling like something of a middling effort, if only by Rosenstock’s lofty standards. There’s nothing here as immediately gratifying as WORRY. highlights like “Festival Song” or “Wave Goodbye to Me,” nor anything that approaches the frenzied, ska-punk-fueled energy of his work with Bomb the Music Industry!. The album’s focus on mid-tempo rockers and power ballads make it feel a bit less lively than previous outings, and though the writing and performances here are certainly passionate, Rosenstock rarely sounds like he’s firing on all cylinders.

On its own terms, though, POST- is still an undeniably enjoyable album, and a worthwhile listen for anyone’s who’s already a fan of Rosenstock’s work. It may not represent Rosenstock’s creative pinnacle, but if you want music that’s smart, catchy, personal and political all in near-equal measures, it doesn’t get much better than POST-.

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