POST by Jeff Rosenstock Review
Review by Thomas Troyan
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Jeff Rosenstock started 2018 off with a bang, dropping an album on New Year’s Day. No announcement, no singles, it just appeared on his Bandcamp and site, free of charge. Releasing the record on Polyvinyl, he’s asking his fans to pay what they like, with a physical release dropping in March.
POST- is Jeff’s fourth album after his previous project “Bomb the Music Industry!” a follow up to 2016’s “WORRY.” which was a personal favorite of mine that year. Coming off a year of heavy-touring, including a spot at Pitchfork Festival where he proclaimed how much his band was paid (“Seventy-five hundred dollars for us to play this festival”), he’s been going non-stop, and has seen a rise in acclaim and popularity while sticking true to his punk ethics. Tackling the landscape of a Post-Election America, Jeff wrote an album about living in a world that feels like it’s falling apart, and trying to put your voice out there and triumph despite it.
“Dumbfounded, downtrodden and dejected/Crestfallen, grief-stricken and exhausted/Trapped in my room while the house was burnin’ to the motherfuckin’ ground!” Jeff proclaims on the explosive album opener “USA.” A seven and a half minute epic, the song tackles the betrayal felt by many after the 2016 Election, and everything that’s gone on since. “Please be honest/Tell me was it you?” he asks, trying to figure out what caused our country to end up where we are. The song then goes into a dreamy-interlude reminiscent of songs like “HELLLLHOOOOLE” or “June 21st” from his previous album, culminating in a chorus where Jeff and others proclaim “We’re tired and bored” becoming a chant that ends with them all yell “ET TU USA!” referencing Caesar’s response to his betrayal by close friends in his assassination.
The album then bursts in to the short and punchy “Yr Throat” where Jeff poses the question “What’s the point of having a voice/ When it gets stuck inside your throat?” Talking about the anxieties that we may feel in day to day life, especially in the trappings of a social climate where we might not speak up, although we should. He reflects on how even though some of us may have a voice that would grant us power, it does no good when you won’t speak up about something that matters.
…hearing this track makes me unable to sit still as I want to dance along to it.
Another highlight comes in the song “Powerlessness”, an anthem that asks “How do you make change in the world when you can’t even do anything to help yourself?” When we’re focused on how to not feel alone in a world that seems to endlessly close in, how does that leave us any time to do anything? This song also brings a relatable self- critique through lines such as “I called it positivity and congratulated myself on a job well done/But after a couple of days the fire that I thought would burn it down was gone” where Jeff focuses on how we’re so willing to congratulate ourselves on our great actions while we haven’t done anything. But what really sells this song for me aside from the lyrics are just the driving drums, provided on this record by Kevin Higuchi, where hearing this track makes me unable to sit still as I want to dance along to it.
This self-loathing continues with songs like “Melba” where the only solution presented to issues such as feeling dumb, or worries that you don’t belong in a group is to run away to start a new life. But in the ending track of this album, Jeff starts to present a way to find optimism in his life. On “9/10” he writes about how although he may spend most of his time getting stoned on subways, or how he wishes he were less helpless, “9 times out of 10 I’ll be thinking of you.” Featuring backing harmonizing vocals from Laura Stevenson, this song is a beautiful little piece that starts to present hope in what seems like a bottomless pit. In the context of this song that comes through finding solace in thinking about the ones we care about.
The drive in this song builds up to a grand finale in the song “Let Them Win”, a true battle-cry that carries a message of hope. A wonderful song that starts with Jeff singing about his adversaries, and how we as a collective won’t let them triumph. This slowly builds up to a choir of voices chanting with Jeff, “We’re not gonna let them win/Again/Again” leading to a climax where he shouts “Fuck No!” The song begins to deescalate ending with a tired Jeff slowing down and wailing over his acoustic guitar, ending in a minute ambient drone. Even though we are tired, bored, and disillusioned as the album opener states, we will still fight against all odds until we are no longer able to fight anymore.
At first glance, POST- may just seem like an album purely about disillusionment. And while a bulk of the album may be describing contempt towards one’s own country in times of struggle, it manages to say much more. The album starts with confusion over how we could get to this point in our lives, followed by anger at ourselves for not doing enough to change it. But by the final song, that anger gets pointed back at the powers above us, and ends on a note that tells us that we shouldn’t give up hope just yet.