Don’t Worry. Jeff Rosenstock is Releasing Another Impressive Solo Record
2016 is a perpetually anxious year and with good reason. Our cell phone screens are a virulent window exposing an environment of societal, political, and personal atrocities. Like a wreck on the highway, we’re fixated and can’t look away. The over exposure makes us weary. We delete our social media in an attempt to live “off the grid,” but a couple days later we’re re-downloading all the apps that perpetuate our anger, depression, and confusion. At that point, there’s one coping mechanism to deal with the onslaught of stress, one we know all too well.
Worry. finds Jeff Rosenstock reacting to multiple existential circumstances influencing panic and uncertainty at an alarming rate. Rather than voice his qualms in a Facebook comment thread, Rosenstock responds with sharp lyricism and earworm melodies to make his case. “It feels completely ridiculous that I’m a willing participant/Gazing at the purple and pinks in the shadow of a bank-sponsored skyline,” Rosenstock sings in the first verse of the chiptune-infused sing along, “Festival Song,” a reactionary account influenced from watching a live musical performance of a commodified act, attempting to bite the hand that feeds it. Jeff’s vocals cut through a chorus comprised of chunky power chords and meandering synth, as he fervently hollers, “Oh, they wouldn’t be your friend if you weren’t worth something,” – a response to the vapid attempt of the musician in subject to vilify the structures in place for the sake of crowd pleasing.
One of the many strengths of the thematic content on Jeff’s albums are their personal relatability. Worry. continues the trend with lyrics all the more personal. “Laura said to me this decade’s gonna be fucked/Our friend’s will disappear after they fall in love/Fall in love and get married/Isn’t that shit like crazy?” the singer remarks over saloon piano and saxophone in the album opener, “We Begged to Explode.” The sentiment of a 30-something engulfed in the throes of maturity is as universal a feeling as “Staring at the Window of Your Old Apartment,” wherein Rosenstock laments, “Someone hung a decorative surfboard up where your records and movies belong.” Though there’s some bittersweet nostalgia in the chorus lyric, “Staring at the window of your old apartment/Imaging the old you stumbling through,” recapturing the past is ultimately futile. It’s all the more difficult when you’re not ready for a fixture in your life to disappear. For Jeff, another significant fixture was beloved Brooklyn DIY venue, Death By Audio, which was shut down in 2014 to make way for Vice Media office space. “Wave goodnight to the sleepless city too tired to fight/They’re pushing you out in the name of progress/selling your memories to the tourists,” he sings in the bridge of “Wave Goodnight to Me.” The track features one of the most irresistibly catchy choruses on the record, in which Rosenstock cries, “When it all fell down I should have been prepared…I wish it didn’t hurt/I wish I didn’t care/They’ve spent the last five years yelling ‘come on’/’Come on, come on get out of here.’”
Worry.’s incredible and impressive feat of dynamic and diverse songwriting is best exemplified in the latter half of the 17 track album. From track 7 on, each song transitions one into the other like a frenetic stream of conscious fever dream. Tracks like “Blast Damage Days,” a Built to Spill-esque slow rocker offers a slight departure from the solo-Rosenstock brand of thickly layered power pop introduced on We Cool? However, Side Two of the album moreso showcases a return to form of Jeff’s earlier musical inclinations. “Planet Luxury” a 30-second hardcore track recalls Minor Threat inspired barrages like, “Blow Your Brains Out on Live TV” from Album Minus Band and “Shower Beers” from To Leave or Die in Long Island, “June 21st” a brief, energetic burst of baritone guitar and shiny glockenspiel with lyrics depicting the start of the summer solstice could fit on the surf pop Vacation, while “Rainbow” pleasantly revisits Jeff’s earliest musical stylings in the form of unapologetic ska-punk. Easter eggs like these a treat for fans of Jeff’s work in Bomb the Music Industry!, and stretching as far back to The Arrogant Sons of Bitches.
It’s been 20 years or so since Jeff Rosenstock first started releasing albums in an often less than encouraging music scene. In his third decade, Jeff’s message and material remain meaningful, relevant, and extremely important for fans and anyone who maintains an interest in indie and punk subcultures. From his altruistic practices to the relatable subject matter of his honest lyrics, Rosenstock’s abilities as a performer and songwriter continue to develop uninhibited on Worry., keeping listeners interested in what the multi-talented musician has to say and how he says it. How the hell Jeff keeps creating these sincere and powerful records one after the other, topping himself time and again, is difficult to wrap one’s head around. Without doubt, his uncompromising approach and humble attitude are crucial factors in his creative process. As long as Jeff Rosenstock continues to release music, there’s a little less to worry about.
Worry is out on October 14th. Be sure to pick up your copy here.