Album Review: "POST-", Jeff Rosenstock
For those of you unfamiliar, Jeff Rosenstock is a pop punk artist four studio albums into his career at this point. He made significant waves with his 2016 release WORRY; a project that attacks all of the emotional turmoil and confusion that comes with growing up, mostly from a relationship and career standpoint with added political themes here and there. This whole feeling of uncertainty came across as surprisingly vivid and relatable, making it a pretty compelling project on the whole. POST, in comparison to Jeff’s last effort, has a much more enveloping political theme. Most of the lyrics here seem to be in response to the election of Trump into office, as WORRY came out just a month prior. Still, this fact isn’t necessarily overly obvious if you aren’t paying attention; it’s done in a way that feels subtle. Jeff isn’t dropping specific references to events or figures every two seconds, but getting deeper into the emotional impact of the event and hopeless feeling that manifested itself immediately after to a lot of us.
POST is mainly made up of energetic power pop/pop punk; some songs reach up to 7+ minutes, but justify their lengths with tempo changes, slower breakdowns in a few areas, etc. One of the things that drew me to Jeff’s music originally was how straightforward yet impactful the production was; he shows that you don’t necessarily need to have the flashiest shit going on to be effective. It also draws more attention to the lyrical themes, which more often than not are what make Jeff Rosenstock projects stand out/feel unique in the grand scheme of music.
On songs like USA, powerful guitar-based production fades into a calmer, harmonious breakdown of synths, followed by a buildup of emotion and vocals that feel genuinely passionate. This layout feels similar to Let Them Win, where epic guitar cuts fade into a more ambient soundscape to close out the album, adding an existential/emotional feel to the project. Beating My Head Against The Wall is a fast, punchy cut that feels the most like a classic punk song; the instrumental literally feels like he’s beating his head against the wall, and at just under 2 minutes. TV Stars and 9/10 incorporate pianos with a slower tempo and are nice changes of pace from the rest of the tracks. However, songs like Yr Throat, All This Useless Energy, and Melba carry a pretty straightforward pop punk structure without many interesting elements and easily feel less engaging. Unfortunately boring moments like these take away from the record’s impact and leave a lot to be desired.
Lyrically, POST touches on the deeper emotional complexities of feeling discouraged with the state of the country, especially in the aftermath of an event like Trump’s election. They’re definitely political in nature, yet have an existential “what’s the point” feel to them. Lyrics like “how can you solve all the problems around you when you can’t even solve the ones in your head” in Powerlessness, and “what’s the point of having a voice when it gets stuck inside your throat” in Yr Throat emphasize this suffocating feeling that he’ll never be able to change the shitty state of things or make a positive impact on the world. Beating My Head Against The Wall points out the frustration that comes with trying to have a political conversation with someone you disagree with/won’t consider your viewpoints. 9/10 and TV Stars display subtle themes of lovesickness; despite liking the lyrics and 9/10 being one of my personal favorite tracks on the project, they feel a little out of place in context of the other songs. The lyrics to Melba suggest moving to Australia and starting over, but feel a little cheesy/redundant and don’t add much to the album’s narrative.
Where this record falls short at the end of the day is its forgettable production. I think Jeff’s straightforward approach works most of the time, and some tracks do switch tempo enough to feel engaging the whole way through. However, there are a good amount that pale in comparison. The high points here and most of the cuts on WORRY are sticky and memorable, but there are too many songs that feel like filler here, at least sonically. There isn’t much to draw me back to the album or make it feel important in the grand scheme of things. However, POST is still a well-written, relevant, and mostly cohesive project that doesn’t overstay its welcome at a comfortable 40 minutes. If you’re especially into pop punk or politically fueled jams, this is a good place to go.