As if Sleater-Kinney was going to return from an eight-year hiatus and deliver anything less than a thoroughly raging collection of post-punk anthems that nudges up the powerful perfection of 2005's The Woods at least another notch. The Olympia, Washington trio's career arc to date has been a continuous ascent, with each album building on the intensity and intelligence of the previous work. And the time spent apart from each other following The Woods' touring cycle has been more than well spent: singer/guitarist Corin Tucker released a couple of solo albums; drummer Janet Weiss joined Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks; and singer/guitarist Carrie Brownstein provided a killer soundtrack to indie hipsterdom with Wild Flag while brilliantly lampooning indie hipsterdom on the comedy show Portlandia. Which is to say that on No Cities to Love, the members of Sleater-Kinney have channelled a pile of new energy into their restated purpose.
It takes exactly 30 seconds to feel the full force of the reunited power-trio, as Weiss teases the pre-chorus of "Price Tag" with a funky/slamming syncopated beat that ultimately leads to the howling anti-capitalism refrain of "We never really checked the price tag." From there on out, it's a fairly constant flow of Fugazi-esque riffage ("Fangless"), hooky mid-tempo gems ("No Cities to Love," "No Anthems") and more than enough psychic-link duelling fretboard heroics to cement Brownstein and Tucker as one of the most exciting guitar duos around. Only the proggy meandering of album closer "Fade" fails to really satisfy —hardly a concern given the enduring catchiness of penultimate track "Hey Darling" (whose chorus bears a striking likeness to the main melody of "Kiss Me Deadly" by former Runaway Lita Ford) and the otherwise exceptional blend of gorgeous melodies and noisy bursts throughout the album.
There's not enough space here to get into why Sleater-Kinney may be one of the most important bands of 2015, but one thing is clear: they've already delivered a serious contender for one of the year's best records. (Sub Pop)