In a surprise release, Jeff Rosenstock shares his fourth full-length album NO DREAM today. The LP is out now on Polyvinyl Record Co. NO DREAM comes at a time of unparalleled chaos and confusion, division and despair, the depths of which would have been impossible to predict when much of it was being written over the course of the last few years. And yet the record feels prescient, unexpectedly and uniquely suited for this moment.
Newly settled in Los Angeles after a lifetime on the East Coast (namely Brooklyn by way of Long Island), Rosenstock recorded NO DREAM with Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Hard Girls, Joyce Manor) at Oakland’s Atomic Garden, and even took on mixing duties alongside Shirley for the first time. Opting to stay off the computer “even more than usual” and record to tape with outboard gear, the result is a lived-in sound that gives each song its own individual voice and organic energy.
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“It was feeling like a very personal record for me,” says Rosenstock. “A lot of it was stemming from the anxiety I was feeling from the last two years, this existential crisis of wondering who I am.” Rosenstock has found himself in a surprising position. As he puts it simply: “I didn’t expect to be doing well, in my life, ever.”
After building a cult following with the acerbic ska-punk of the Arrogant Sons of Bitches and DIY heroics of Bomb the Music Industry!, Rosenstock’s first proper solo record, 2015’s We Cool?, was a step into uncharted territory, fully untethered from genre and expectation. Followed by 2016’s WORRY. and the surprise New Year’s Day launch of POST- in the early hours of 2018, Rosenstock was facing down that least punk of opportunities: a career playing music.
“I got so used to putting out records that only a few people in the punk underground liked,” he says. “And a lot of people in the punk underground also didn’t like them, either.” Except things have changed, and NO DREAM arrives with an entirely new set of expectations in an entirely new era. The greatest surprise is that Rosenstock’s deeply personal self doubt is expressed in a way that captures a universal feeling of shock and uncertainty, his own growing anxieties about his place in the world holding space for our own. “I was trying to not be afraid of using phrases that weren’t immediately clear to me, aside from how they sounded and felt, then allowing them to reveal themselves over time.”
“Music is all vocabulary – you learn new words but you don’t forget the old ones,” he says. Having taken some time away from his work as a solo artist to recalibrate and reset over the last year, Rosenstock stayed busy playing alongside Mikey Erg, recording and touring with the Bruce Lee Band, releasing a Neil Young covers record with frequent collaborator Laura Stevenson, reissuing two of his own out-of-print early albums, compiling a live album which was recorded during a run of four sold-out shows at Bowery Ballroom, making a 76 page photo book, and scoring over 80 episodes of the Cartoon Network series Craig of the Creek. In fully returning to his own voice, it’s no surprise that Rosenstock’s output has never been more eclectic, reflected across NO DREAM’s 13 songs.
“Scram!” pulls from the overdriven guitar sound of Kerplunk in its mash-up of chugging palm mutes and Weezer melodies, while “Old Crap” mines the pop-punk of Rosenstock’s youth and dares to drop a classic “pick it up!” rallying cry. Ultimately, it’s the title track, with its breakneck pivot from dreamy Mazzy Star to careening Minor Threat, that gives the album its aching heart. “You can’t help it. You can’t stop it. You see these atrocities and want it to end. But it’s not going to stop, and when that feeling sets in it’s a full-on panic freak-out.” It may not be a hopeful message, but it’s one that ties together the sense of impending doom and gives it direction, voicing a rage that many struggle to articulate.
“I thought I had just made a record for no one,” he says. “What’s the point of feeling this way? Does it help to vocalise it?” Rosenstock’s rhetorical question is answered by NO DREAM, an accidentally universal record for a damaged, difficult time.
Previous praise for Jeff Rosenstock:
“[POST-] is filled with ‘angry confusion,’ but Rosenstock also reveals himself as a singer-songwriter with a gift for delicate melodies.” – NPR Fresh Air (Ken Tucker)
“one of punk rock’s greatest, most effusive living songwriters.” – Pitchfork on POST- (8.2)
“[POST- has] bouncy riffs and braying hooks careening off of each other with joyous urgency…in using this straight-ahead, anachronistic bash-it-out music to reflect layered and complicated right-now fears and anxieties, Rosenstock pulls off some kind of magic trick…[a] triumph.” – Stereogum (Album of the Week for POST-)
“[Jeff Rosenstock blows] angst out into punk operettas.” – The FADER
“Rosenstock reminds us that few things sound more rebellious and feel more cathartic than a rock band blowing the windows out of a garage” – Consequence of Sound (#32 Top Albums of 2018)
“Using pop-punk accessibility but at prog-rock scale, with his voice all shredded and twitchy, Rosenstock rages at rage, mourns mourning, and frets that all the street protests of late might just be a fad.” – The Atlantic (Best Albums of 2018)
“Rosenstock, like the rest of us, is learning to balance rage with relief.” – Brooklyn Vegan (#24 Top Album of 2018)
“Worry’s fears and anxieties have metastasized, giving birth to an angrier, more frustrated, but also more ambitious collection of song [on POST-]s, teeming with boundary-testing moments for the band, but always ready with a complicated, cathartic sing-along to provide some hope in dark times. “ – The AV Club (Best Indie and Rock Albums of 2018)
“When this punk-rock hero dropped his third solo album on New Year’s Day, it felt like a blessing for 2018. Now, almost a full year later, it feels like prophecy…In a year in which the deluge of bad news continued abated, hearing an indefatigable optimist like Rosenstock wail that “we’re not gonna let them win” felt like tonic.” – Uproxx (#3 Best Rock Album of 2018)
“He is a rambunctious bard of late capitalism, perceptive as he is blunt, hooky as he is wordy.” – The Ringer
“Rosenstock’s manic gospel — cathartic indie-punk injected with the gleeful abandon of basement hardcore” – MTV