Arts

All-female rock band Sleater-Kinney never found mainstream success but that shouldn’t stop you from trying them out. Photo: Courtesy of Sub Pop.

Why you haven’t heard it

By the time The Woods was released in 2005, Sleater-Kinney were already 10 years deep into their career as one of indie rock’s most consistently solid bands. That consistency ultimately came at the cost of a true mainstream breakthrough, although 1997’s Dig Me Out came close. The band’s position as a non-conformist, all-female rock band also somewhat hindered their exposure, as the indie scene was still largely male-dominated at the time. What’s more, the band broke up shortly after The Woods’ release, so you were unlikely to simply stumble across Sleater-Kinney unless you were already into punk and/or indie rock.

Why it might be tough to get through

This album is LOUD. Sleater-Kinney were always on the noisier side of indie rock (understandably, given the band’s punk background) but on The Woods, they really bring the noise. In addition to their chaotic vocal performances, Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker’s twin guitars are turned up to 11 for the record’s entire duration, while Janet Weiss’ deafening drumming is more akin to thunderclaps than to any man-made phenomenon. On top of this, the album’s production is extremely compressed, creating lots of distortion and clipping in the mix. All of these elements combine to form a crushing experience that can easily overwhelm or scare off the uninitiated.

Why you should listen to it anyway

The Woods is one of the hardest-rocking albums ever released and a must-listen for any fan of nasty riffs, explosive hooks, and clever lyrics. The trio are at the collective peak of their powers here: Brownstein and Tucker’s guitars and vocals perfectly interlock to create forceful rhythms and nimble counterpoint, while Weiss is simultaneously agile and Herculean on the drums. The album’s lyrics can get dark, touching on themes of suicide (“Jumpers”), toxic relationships (“The Fox”), and the superficiality of modern life (“Modern Girl”), but the words are delivered with a unique blend of passion, fury, and vulnerability. Even the compressed production eventually reveals itself as essential to the album’s gargantuan sound. Long story short, The Woods kicks ass and it’ll kick yours (but in a good way).

Fun facts

  • Although Sleater-Kinney broke up after the release of The Woods, they reunited in 2014 and have remained active since then, releasing a new album, No Cities to Love, and touring periodically.
  • Sketch comedy fans might recognize Carrie Brownstein from her role on the TV show Portlandia, which she also co-created alongside Fred Armisen.
  • The Woods’ was produced by Dave Fridmann, who has also worked on albums by MGMT, The Flaming Lips, Mogwai, and more.

Best lines and songs

“Someone’s in the kitchen/Cooking hearts over the stove/Don’t lie to me never say goodbye to me/I don’t want to be here alone” (“What’s Mine Is Yours.”)

“I took a taxi to the Gate/I will not go to school again/Four seconds was the longest wait” (“Jumpers.”)

“My baby loves me, I’m so angry/Anger makes me a modern girl/Took my money, I couldn’t buy nothing/I’m sick of this brave new world” (“Modern Girl.”)