Album Review: Jeff Rosenstock – ‘Worry’
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There are several good reasons why “the only music allowed” in my bandmate’s car is “Jeff Rosenstock, except maybe Chris Farren, but mostly Jeff Rosenstock”. Almost every Jeff fan I’ve met, has shared a similar definitive moment – music before hearing Jeff Rosenstock, and music after hearing Jeff Rosenstock. If Worry is your first Rosenstock album, this is at that moment. His newest album Worry is nothing short of extraordinary, and a record you won’t soon stop hearing about in punk.
As a solo artist, the Jeff Rosenstock sound has only become more refined & pronounced with each release. Drummer Kevin Higuchi and guitarist Mike Huguenor, bring new depth to the prolific songwriting that made Jeff and bassist John DeDomenici’s previous project Bomb The Music Industry! so popular. Arguably bolder is his legendary commitment to the DIY ethos, which has made Jeff one of the most important figures in music (read more about that here). He founded the 1st ever donation-based record label, and was among the first artists to release his music online for free, a growing movement that has revolutionized both music accessibility and even the Grammy’s eligibility requirements (without Jeff, would Chance The Rapper have a shot at a Grammy??)
More recently, he put out a call to up-and-coming bands for a shot to open for him on all tour stops “to make it more accessible for younger bands without scene connections” – a bold move that stands to undermine presales and pay-to-play altogether. Because, as he eloquently states on his Quote Unquote Records website, “Fuck, with your help, maybe we can even change this stupid stupid underground music industry from fashionista indie labels back to friendly songwriters and nerds.” These deliberate actions depict an artist wholly dedicated to transforming the music landscape for the better. He’s the hero we need, certainly not the one we deserve.
With 17 songs, Worry puts Jeff’s impressive and aggressive depth on full display. As comedian and fellow DIY legend, Chris Gethard, summed it up “we all know Jeff is a musical genius. If he wanted to go ghost write songs for Taylor Mars and Bruno Swift, I bet he could make millions of dollars doing so…” This is no exaggeration.
Make no mistake, the songs on Worry are certified bangers, and in an ideal industry less “traditionally” driven by the almighty Pitbull feature and brand tie-ins, top 40 radio just might make a soccer-mom anthem out of the gentrification-fueled anxiety fest that is “Wave Goodnight To Me”. The band’s textured, brilliantly executed arrangements often leave me wondering – how has someone so brilliant stayed so independent for so long?
“He continues to not do any of that easy shit and that’s because he’s not bullshitting about doing things not just the right way, but in a way that’s more idealistic than reality actually allows for… Jeff’s been falling on the sword for the rest of us for years and it’s on all of us to at least go down swinging.”
– Chris Gethard
Worry begins on a calm note with “We Begged To Explode”, a swelling slow-jam, which is followed by the chunky rhythms and bopping bass of “Pash Rash”, a glitzy departure from 2012’s I Look Like Shit, or even 2015’s We Cool?. “Pash Rash” delivers a reflective anthem on moving forward anyone with a great college makeup story can dig.
This record bluntly tackles themes of gentrification, nostalgia, the frustrations of twenty-somethings, and, well, worrying about all of the above. Blistering solos (guitar, synth, and vocal alike) make “Festival Song” & “I Did Something Weird Last Night” playlist mainstays for years to come.
“Rainbow” & “The Fuzz” are BRILLIANT. Rosenstock’s versatility shines brightest in pocket moments, equally across the choral driven “Pietro, 60 Years Old”, or the old-school thrash punk love letter “Planet Luxury”. These genre-leaps (THERE’S SKA ON THIS ALBUM!) thrive thanks to producer Jack Shirley, who’s brought nuance to life in albums for Deafheaven, Loma Prieta and Frameworks in the past.
The double-whammy of the last two songs, “While You’re Alive” and “Perfect Sound Whatever” has been fucking me up for 30 listens straight. On the former, Jeff yells “Everyone loves you when you die, but love is worry” atop an upbeat groove. On the latter, “Perfect always takes so long because it don’t exist, IT DOESN’T EXIST.”
Worry is not just ambitious or different for ambitious or different’s sake – it encapsulates daily struggle of generation clawing onto any shred of happiness we have in a futile race for perfection. To love is to worry because you something to lose. To reject the existence of perfection is to thrive despite parking tickets, bad breath, shitty jobs, or whatever your parents/bosses/teachers/
I can’t properly write this without giving props to Sideonedummy for continuing to MURDER the release game this year, across new releases from Pup, Chris Farren, Microwave, AJJ, and beyond. If on-point merch is your thing, the official Worry survivor kit wins the 2016 “Most Practical Merch Thank God” award*. If you prefer LONG-FORM CONTENT, check out this dope making-of feature. It’s tight.
Worry is delightful. Worry is the cool cousin you hope shows up on holidays because they get what you’re going through. It’s sincere. It’s brave. It’s immersive and expansive. It should come mandatory with each post-grad’s 1st student loan notice. It’s the album I wanna hand my kid one day. Scathing indictments of capitalism and existential dread run amok on this album, drenched in a special sort of optimism tested by years of navigating DIY pitfalls. Now that albums like this exist, I’m ready to fall on the sword.
As exciting as music in 2016 has been, the last thing I expected was a top-10 record of my life to show up out of nowhere and make me feel whole again. That’s not just the power of music, but the power of Jeff Rosenstock.
FFO: Pup, surviving your quarter life crisis, ska
Favorite Tracks: “Wave Goodnight To Me”, “Festival Song”, “Perfect Sound Whatever”
*This award is NOT a fake. Trophy forthcoming.
– Tommy –