Jeff Rosenstock – ‘We Cool?’

By Mike Petruccelli

Jeff Rosenstock can incorporate more musical variety into one album than some musicians can incorporate into their whole discography. The Long Islander with his heart on his sleeve never seems to let up with creativity. Since the demise of Bomb the Music Industry! he has been playing along side Mike Park in The Bruce Lee Band and working with Chris Farren in Antarctigo Vespucci, using his musical talents and taking a backseat to songwriting. He also recently produced an album for Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room, so needless to say, he has kept busy. Despite this, Rosenstock has been able to release the cleverly titled ‘We Cool?’ via One Side Dummy Records. It’s his second solo release since 2012’s ‘I Look Like Shit’ and it was well worth the wait.

Opening track ‘Get Old Forever kicks off the record with no frills. It begins as an earnest acoustic intro that turns into a full band explosion with sequenced drums, synths and a melody that concludes with the lyric “Malt Liquor doesn’t make you young.” It’s followed up with ‘You in Weird Cities’, which continues the frantic musical stylings you would expect from Rosenstock’s compositions. He displays his strengths with these openers – singing about the insecurities of getting older, using multiple catchy hooks, and adding intensity that would reminisce upon the faster tracks on ‘Scrambles’ or ‘Get Warmer’.

Another thing that quickly became familiar was the honesty in his writing. All of ‘We Cool?’ displays his ability to be upfront about his neuroticism and anxiety. The chorus to the piano-laden ‘Nausea’ is the perfect example of this: “I got so tired of discussing my future / I started avoiding the people I love / evenings of silence and mornings of nausea / shaking and sweating but can’t throw up.” His talent with writing such brutal lyrics but then combining them with a melodic four on the floor piano tune is awkward and jarring, but it never becomes overwhelming. Though, he does not stray away completely from dissonance. This can be heard on the song ‘Novelty Sweater’ where Rosenstock tests his falsetto while fuzzy guitars and chiptune sounds ring under his voice: “Starting it all again / my life is like a trap / I’m laying under a novelty sweater / stinking of fear.” This line combined with the aforementioned musical elements hits a new tone with Rosenstock’s lyrics, but it is not foreign to his style.

Musically, this album shines with songs like ‘I’m Serious, I’m Sorry’, where the chorus is comprised of solely guitar slides and tom drums, or in ‘Polar Bear or Africa’, which takes duelling synth parts and eventually builds upon them with a full chorus of singers. Rosenstock even uses reverse effects and a lonesome backing piano on ‘All Blissed Out’ to make a song that is as cryptic as it is haunting. These arrangements and production techniques can be found throughout the whole album, keeping things clever and surprising. Also, it’s important to mention the unfiltered first person narrative he weaves in these songs, and how he confronts subjects such as death, finding happiness, and the struggles societal competitions in life. These topics aren’t new to Rosenstock but he always seems to find an unexplored avenue to take when writing about them.

Finally, If there is anything that summarises the spontaneity of ‘We Cool’ it’s specifically the album’s closer entitled ‘Darkness Records’. Instead of making it a solely minimal acoustic outro or a high speed, synth heavy blowout as he has done on previous records, Rosenstock takes the listener on what feels like an emotional goose chase for roughly three minutes. There are multiple changes – from acoustic guitars, to country style rhythm sections, to a full band climax, to an elegant string reprise – it almost feels like medley of sorts. This type of spontaneity resonates throughout the album but the most in this song, providing the element of surprise up until the last seconds of the record.

All in all, Jeff Rosenstock seems to always find a way to tap into his fears and make something unique and personally in-depth. ‘We Cool?’ shows he is still able to deliver not only wild compositions, but very personal commentary on his life and fears. No two songs feel the same but every song incorporates different elements of his previous work, but do not misconstrue this as a bad thing. If you enjoyed anything he’s done prior to ‘We Cool?’ then there’s a song on it you’ll most likely love, enjoy, or obsess over, whether it’s in a dark apartment or at a party with all of your drunk friends.

MIKE PETRUCCELLI

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