Genre-bending singer-songwriter Jeff Rosenstock surprised his fans by releasing his unannounced third solo album, POST-, on New Year’s Day of this year, starting 2018 with a much-needed boost of adrenaline. Always the socially-minded artist, he promptly addresses the understandable desire for escapism in these arduous times, but ultimately he resists the temptation to ignore the responsibility that comes with having a public platform such as his. A direct response to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, POST- expands upon the themes Rosenstock had explored on critical darling Worry, refining his nervous energy into a palpable depiction of animosity.
While he has certainly used his lyrics as a vehicle by which to sift through political indignation in the past, here, Rosenstock builds upon his outrage, fleshing out complex observations with longer tracks that contain a wide array of emotional movements. After the five-second opening palate cleanser “Mornin’!,” he dives headfirst into “USA,” a flurry of ideas that cycle between numbed complacency and unfiltered rage for nearly eight minutes. The anger continues through jagged, enraged sing-a-longs like “Yr Throat” and bleeds into the lengthy, slow-building “Let Them Win.” Many of these tracks contain the irate turns of phrase one would expect to show up on a picket sign.
The record has a fragmented charm to it, and it isn’t as noticeably cohesive as his previous efforts have often been. While it isn’t quite as sonically diverse as Worry was, POST- boasts a cool, measured texture throughout. Rosenstock often finds potency in the more delicate touches. From the lush, arena-filling indictment of “TV Stars” to the synthesizers coupling the raw, uninhibited point of view on “9/10,” he continuously goes out of his way to remind the listener that punk rock has far more to do with a frame of mind than it does with the aesthetic package in which it’s delivered. It doesn’t hurt that Rosenstock enlists collaborators from various walks of life, such as Chris Farren, Dan Potthast, Laura Stevenson and the Canadian punk rock band PUP, each bringing their own tactile stamp to the project.
As he proceeds to take structural risks, Jeff Rosenstock continues to prove that he’s an expressive force who’s repeatedly able to capture a divergent cocktail of conflicting emotions, often in a single verse. His chief asset remains his spirited vibrancy, which gives his music an added level of gravitas. Even when revisiting similar tonal and aesthetic ground, Rosenstock has yet to become predictable. His biting lyrics and deceptively minimalist composition display the makings of a lasting impact. POST- serves as a welcoming sanctuary for the “dumbfounded, downtrodden, and dejected” while simultaneously condemning those who “judge us when we cry and never empathize with anyone but themselves.” Of all the passion projects the resentment of the Trump era has inspired, this record is one of the most flagrantly empathetic.