It's a bold decision to drop an album without warning on New Year's Day, the kind of unexpected power move normally reserved for pop marquees like Beyoncé or Frank Ocean. But Jeff Rosenstock doesn't seem to care about expectations, so here we were, ringing in the new year with POST-, the expedited followup to his wonderful sophomore record WORRY., which arrived just over a year earlier.
Unlike that 37-minute sprint through 17 songs, this album melds its many ideas into some larger parts, with just nine songs clocking in at roughly 40 minutes. But true to form, POST- is still all sorts of bonkers in mostly the right ways.
The story of POST- is that Rosenstock wrote it in a trailer in a snowy rural New York hamlet (a total Bon Iver move, by the way) in the days following the inauguration of President Trump. While the album is not completely devoid of politics, Rosenstock has focused his attention on one's personal sense of purpose in the midst of all the noise. "What's the point of having a voice / When it gets stuck inside your throat?" he asks in "Yr Throat," the type of rambunctious track that's typical of the pop-punk veteran. "How can you solve all the problems around you / When you can't even solve the ones in your head?" he continues on "Powerlessness," another of his hurried dashes to the end.
So while not an overt protest, POST- captures a sense of disenchantment and disappointment with the state of things. Rosenstock sings about feeling like what you say or do is meaningless, whether that's because you don't feel like you have anything meaningful to contribute, or because you couldn't even if you did. Yet all the while, he hollers hooks and wrings earworms out of his guitar, and the band's instrumentation is frilly, fanciful and occasionally toyish. "9/10" sounds like some sort of punk nursery rhyme about urban malaise, while "TV Stars" has a Billy Joel-esque feel (and a verse that, in a song that brings the "Piano Man" to mind, contains a well-placed dig about his own piano-playing abilities).
It's in the album's elongated experiments that the most interesting stuff happens, though. "USA" is a frantic, shape-shifting punk opera, like a "Jesus of Suburbia" stripped of the political shallowness of Green Day's American Idiot. And whereas most of Rosenstock's songs pack as much as possible into the tiniest spaces, the 11-minute "Let Them Win" hangs on a simple beat and a singular refrain: "We're not gonna let them win, oh no." With POST-, Jeff Rosenstock has done a fine job of making cheerful music for unhappy times. (Polyvinyl)