Jeff Rosenstock — POST-
January 1, 2018
Long Island, New York / Polyvinyl Record Co.

I won’t make any bones about it; Jeff Rosenstock is one of my favourite recording artists of all time. For the past couple of years that I’ve been following his discography, he’s since become the poster boy for my emotional compass thanks to his heart-shreddingly sharp takes on the millennial day-to-day (and the sharp guitar shredding doesn’t hurt either).

Back when WORRY. dropped in 2016, it became my album of the year without any hesitation. While this was partly down to the fact that the instrumentation goes hard as fuck, it was also because I found the album fitted perfectly for any given mood I was in that day: overjoyed, lovelorn, angry, bitter, depressed (I mainly felt those last four). On an even larger scale, WORRY. saw Jeff become a harbinger of things to come as the 2016 election unfolded in a major way, and tensions became thicker than ever. Thankfully, this is where Jeff shines the brightest.

2017 was a quiet year for Jeff (considering both years prior saw full length releases) save for a singular track, “Dramamine,” at the front half of the year. While the wails of WORRY. still rang true for the most part as, against all odds, shit got even more fucked, it almost felt like Jeff left us high and dry, not giving us a place to channel all of our collective vitriol.

Needless to say, I was wrong to feel forsaken. In comes POST- on the first day of 2018. First of all, January 1st was my birthday, so that kicked ass; but this new album set itself in my brain as the official anthem for the 2018 to come.

[I took a break from writing my review at this point to order the CD and t-shirt bundle on polyvinylrecords dot com]

Hello, best friend. It’s me. Hope this makes it on your new record.

Jeff works best under pressure. Ergo, according to the album’s Quote Unquote Records page, it was worked on right up until the last day of 2017. This was a smart move, considering 2017 never settled down into unpredictability, meaning at literally any moment we could have been jettisoned into an entirely new sociopolitical context that could have warranted a rewrite.

The mantra of the album would have been sedimented either way, though: we’ve been through shit, and we’re never going to let it happen again. This is made ear-piercingly clear on the musical bookends of the record, “USA” and “Let Them Win.” The former of the two boasts this beast of a guitar wail that sounds like a civil defence siren, overpowered only by Jeff’s bemoaning about matters from a family driving parallel in the lane beside him, to his altercations with the unjust law of the United States. He asks, who’s responsible for these things? He won’t hate them; he just wants some accountability. “Please be honest.” The track very quickly turns into group chants of “We’re tired! We’re bored!” which is perhaps the only remaining fuck-you to the state of the world that bears any weight anymore. Yeah, we know, you suck—what else have you got? It’s a paternal scolding of the eponymous country by the people that made it, and I don’t know what could sting any more than that. “Et tu, USA?”

“Let Them Win” is equally as rousing, but it chugs in on a fat-as-fuck guitar groove while Jeff drives home the point that no matter what the opposition (read: fundamental human compassion) tries to do to us, they can’t take down the good guys. The good guys outnumber the bad guys; you can hear them in the group vocals just before this tidal wave of victory-lapping guitars come rushing in, just to settle down into Jeff singing a few final exhausted “no”s, and an uninterrupted five minutes of ambience. The album essentially closes on a cold shower, where you’re left to sit and really think about what this album is about. It’s about injustice, and if there is anyone in the audience who feels like this album is at the expense of their own belief system, that’s something to think about, too.

They said
“Well, you promised us the stars
And now we’re tired and bored.”

These two cuts make up almost half of the entire album, and they earn their length and then some. Jeff rarely lets an idea fester for more than four minutes, so hearing him unleash not one but two sonic arsenals on one project is nothing short of flooring.

The rest of the album provides much more in the way of your usual Jeffisms: awkwardness in love, awkwardness in life, self-awkwardness. Jeff’s an awkward dude. If the aforementioned tracks are the culmination of his WORRY.-era woes, then the remaining cuts call back more to 2015’s We Cool?, which focused much more on a day in the life of a Rosenstock in snapshot fashion. You don’t get specific anecdotes on this record like you do à la “I’m Serious, I’m Sorry,” for example. If anything, POST- delves more into the universal constants of Jeff’s world.

“Powerlessness” has a tempo that reeks of coffee jitters while Jeff rattles off about how his depression renders him practically or literally immobile. He hasn’t spoken extensively to anybody in weeks that turn into months, as much as he wants to. His negative thoughts are distracting, and these distractions prevent him from doing much of anything. These distractions are explored a little deeper on the preceding track, “All This Useless Energy,” which details Jeff’s restless searching for the thing that will set his life in place. Interestingly, the song about having too much energy has a lot less momentum than the one about being frozen with nervousness, so these two tracks trade off of each other pretty effectively in the context of the record.

It came on suddenly
I haven’t spoken to another person in a month
Well small talk obviously
But nothing beyond barely catching up
I have lots of things to say
But they’re gonna sound dumb, dumb, dumb
I have lots of things to say
But I’m just an idiot

Cuts like “Yr Throat” and “Melba” carry the pop punk torch to the finish line with their sweet hooks and cathartic crescendos. Both are about Jeff’s insecurities with regards to different aspects of his life, because of course they are, but at no point do his perceived flaws bog down his performances. “Yr Throat” is about being able to talk to excess about things that don’t matter, only to fail outright at speaking up when it’s important. The agency of this song switches up towards the latter half, where Jeff wonders why Donald Trump wasn’t ruined after the Access Hollywood recordings leaked. While searching endlessly for any sort of accountability, Jeff can only put his own name forward for these sorts of problems.

What’s the point of having a voice
What’s the point of having a voice
When it gets stuck inside your throat?
When it gets stuck inside your throat?
When it gets stuck inside your throat?

“TV Stars” demonstrates a resentment towards celebrity culture, and how harmful these parasocial relationships can become when people are allowed to get away with their actions if they’re beloved enough. That’s what I take from the track, anyway; it’s one of the less direct songs here in spite of its straightforward chorus (TV stars / don’t care about who you are), but it has a couple of killer lines along the way.

I can’t see you in another’s arms
Like, it’s cool
I just can’t imagine it
Would you fall asleep to different shows
Than the ones that we drift away with?
I couldn’t dream of it
I couldn’t dream of it

No Jeff Rosenstock album would be complete without a wayward take on love, which is where “9/10” (the ninth of ten tracks here) comes in. The song is carried by some incessant synth stabs, which paints an apt picture of an anxious, intoxicated journey on the subway. This is a fairly archetypal Jeff song: he’s high, and he’s uncomfortable, but he cares about you with all the heart that he can muster (despite his “it’s almost like I miss you” refrains).

At the beginning of this review, I described WORRY. as an omen of what was to come in the next year. I see POST- in a similar light; this will be a year of re-evaluation, and rebuilding. With this album, Jeff Rosenstock is inviting everyone to stand together against whatever evil is working against us. When I hear those group chants of “We’re tired! We’re bored!” and “We’re not gonna let them win,” I feel this vicarious sense of unity with everybody who listens to this album, and unity is the solution to injustice. POST- is my personal anthem of 2018.

FAVOURITE TRACKS: USA / Yr Throat / Powerlessness / TV Stars / 9/10 / Let Them Win

8/10