A lot has happened to the members of Sleater-Kinney since the band decided to take a hiatus in 2006.
Singer/guitarist Corin Tucker released a pair of solo records, 1,000 Years in 2010 and Kill My Blues in 2012. Drummer Janet Weiss toured with Stephen Malkmus and formed the band Wild Flag with Sleater-Kinney’s second singer/guitarist Carrie Brownstein. In her time away from SK, Brownstein fostered her creative television comedy, the popular Emmy-nominated Portlandia, with co-star Fred Armisen.
If any group deserved a Grammy nod based on the import of their work, the three ladies of Sleater-Kinney rightly deserve such recognition for No Cities to Love
With the band members’ individually rich and enormously busy schedules, fans didn’t even dream of a Sleater-Kinney reunion. However, with No Cities to Love, the band’s first full-length since 2005’s The Woods, Sleater-Kinney managed to catch everyone by surprise with what turned out to be one of the strongest records of 2015.
No Cities to Love’s energy never flags — the album-opening “Price Tag” announces the trio’s exemplary comeback with its slinky, jagged guitars and Tucker’s wailing vocals. It’s a solid sonic return of Sleater-Kinney’s urgent, kinetic sound; one trademarked in soundtracking the inner deliberations of a feminist experience that informed and inspired a generation of music fans.
Sleater-Kinney’s faith in a powerful voice and grooving rock sound had been missing from the musical landscape, heard only fleetingly in SK’s absence but echoed by those who cited them as an influence.
Describing the band’s essential chemistry before the release of No Cities to Love on NPR, Tucker explained the purpose of the band’s inevitable reunion, “Part of this whole Sleater-Kinney 2.0 is breaking the rules. We wanted to tell our story… we feel like we need to stand up for ourselves.”
Most impressively, No Cities to Love sounds as if the trio never missed a beat. Weiss’ unmistakable pounding goes into overdrive on “Fangless” while Tucker and Brownstein’s patented vocal interplay and emotive sing-song carries tracks like “A New Wave.” The lyrically powerful “Bury Our Friends” creates a heavy dance vibe and new-wave energy the band so beautifully employs.
It’s possible Sleater-Kinney could be considered too sharp for the mainstream and unworthy of a Grammy nod, even though their profile and audience has significantly increased
While Sleater-Kinney added some sonic textures with keyboards, bass and the album’s production, they mostly returned to their core sound. The title track, “A New Wave,” and the truly anthemic but personal “No Anthems,” all uphold the trio’s musical roughness while lyrically they focus on issues of disempowerment, hope and despair and other themes of personal power.
It’s possible Sleater-Kinney could be considered too sharp for the mainstream and unworthy of a Grammy nod, even though their profile has significantly increased and their audience broadened as old fans and new have equally embraced the band.
The band toured extensively around the world following the release of No Cities to Love and garnered critical acclaim, netting a 8.7 on Pitchfork, a feature in Rolling Stone, and many other accolades. The band also gained substantial exposure on television, including spots on David Letterman and Stephen Colbert’s Late Show, Late Night With Seth Meyers and Austin City Limits.
In some ways, all of the attention has made Sleater-Kinney as much a household name as any other of-the-moment act.
There’s no denying the musical impact of Album of the Year nominees Alabama Shakes, Kendrick Lamar and the ubiquitous Taylor Swift have delivered. But if any group deserved to be crowned with a Grammy nod based on the import of their work, Sleater-Kinney rightly deserve such recognition for No Cities to Love.
In 2015, Sleater-Kinney represented the notion of perseverance coupled with a strong identity to pick up where they left off a decade ago. Fans know No Cities to Love is a true masterpiece — if only the Grammys had recognized the same.