This creaky, fall Monday morning opened with some really good news: Sleater-Kinney, the Olympia, Washington-born band at the nexus of the riot grrrl and indie rock scenes, is returning with a tour and new album after an eight-year hiatus. In the time since the band announced their break, singer Carrie Brownstein has gained fame for her acting, both in the sketch show Portlandia and the Amazon hit Transparent, as well as played with the supergroup Wild Flag from 2010 to 2013. Now Brownstein, Janet Weiss, and Corin Tucker are back together for another record, No Cities to Love, out this January. They even released the first track, “Bury Your Friends,” as a teaser. In case you need to catch up on all things Sleater-Kinney before January, we present the best song from each of their albums, after the jump.
1. Sleater-Kinney, 1995
The band’s debut album, Sleater-Kinney, was recorded in just one day during a trip to Australia, and clocks in at just 22 minutes long. At this point, the band was still a side project for the trio. But the framework of their sound is already present: the contrasting vocals, Brownstein’s spare playing at the front, and Tucker’s filling in the low end.
Best Song: The Sonic Youth meets riot grrrl thrash “Be Yr. Mama”
Robert Christgau Assessment: “Three different lyrics reject the penis soi-même with a fervor that could pass for disgust, and while their same-sex one-on-ones aren’t exactly odes to joy, they convey a depth of feeling that could pass for passion.”
2. Call the Doctor, 1996
This album is where the band’s sound, and their ambitions, solidified. There is nothing quiet about them. “I’m the Queen of rock ‘n’ roll” is a line that Brownstein actually sings, and you pretty much believe it.
Best Song: The twee in title but fierce in execution “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone”
Robert Christgau Assessment: “Few if any have played rock’s tension-and-release game for such high stakes–revolution as existentialism, electric roar as acne remedy. They wanna be our Joey Ramone, who can resist that one?”
3. Dig Me Out, 1997
Tucker and Brownstein’s vocal trading reaches peak form here, and the rough edges from their previous albums get smoothed somewhat. It’s less thrashy and more hooky, but there’s still a wildness to it. Dig Me Out also marks the first record with drummer Janet Weiss, who became a staple of the trio.
Best Song: The playful, careening, wonderful “Little Babies,” but a runner-up nod is due to the rock lifer anthem “Words and Guitar” and the infectious title track, “Dig Me Up.”
Robert Christgau Assessment: “Like a new good lover the second or third time, they’re so confident of their ability to please that they just can’t stop. ”
4. The Hot Rock, 1999
A more delicate record than their previous ones, Brownstein and Tucker’s voices intertwine in a mesmerizing fashion throughout the album. It’s a softer approach, but their mojo is still in full effect.
Best Song: The part-spoken word “Get Up” (which, fun fact, Miranda July directed the video for, the band’s first)
Robert Christgau Assessment: “S-K emerges as a diary of adulthood in all its encroaching intricacy. I mean, the guitars don’t crunch like they used to either, and that’s the very reason “Get Up” sounds like death and desire at the same time. ”
5. All Hands on the Bad One, 2000
An album full of lean, rock numbers topped with Brownstein’s signature warble, All Hands on the Bad One was their most controlled album yet.
Best Song: The party playlist staple “You’re No Rock’n’Roll Fun”
Robert Christgau Assessment: “Locked into a visceral style and sound that always maximizes their considerable and highly specific gifts, they could no more make a bad album than the Rolling Stones in 1967.”
6. One Beat, 2002
A record crafted in response to 9/11, One Beat could have easily come off as overly preachy or boosterish. But instead, it’s just full of the same joyous energy that Sleater-Kinney always beings to their work.
Best Song: The hand-clapping, jump around, feel-good anthem “Oh”
Robert Christgau Assessment: “Sleater-Kinney…go for defiant uplift and seem energized by the challenge. ”
7. The Woods, 2005
The band’s final album before their haitus, The Woods, marked several big changes for Sleater-Kinney. First, they switch from longtime producer John Goodmanson to Flaming Lips’ producer Dave Fridmann and Subpop. Second, they included all kinds of new-fangled instruments to the process, including a theremin. The result is a lusher, more introspective album.
Best Song: “Modern Girl” but runner-up nod to “The Fox”
Robert Christgau Assessment: “Although the album is definitely loud, it’s also raw, with no hint of the symphonic, yet at the same time it’s a melodic highlight of an honorably tuneful catalog. And come down to it, the words are pretty good.”