I have been more excited for Jeff Rosenstock’s third solo album, WORRY., than I’ve been for pretty much anything in the past year or two. When it went up on Spotify last night, I had a brief moment of terror, where for a split second I questioned whether I had hyped it up too much. Maybe my expectations were too high. Then I hit play and realized that was a stupid mistake.
The music I listen to could be described less as a genre and more as an emotional state: I’m a big sucker for media made by and about people who have struggled but still manage to find a glimmer of hope in the world. That’s why I love musicians like Frank Turner and shows like Bojack Horseman, so it should surprise no one that I love WORRY. Jeff Rosenstock has dealt with his anxieties in all of his solo work, but this album feels especially poignant now, when the United States is best characterized by police shooting unarmed black people and a fascist Cheeto bragging about sexually assaulting women after referring to Mexican immgrants as “rapists”. So many of us in this country are terrified of what will become of it. Add that to our personal insecurities about falling in love, being able to afford our rent, and whether or not our friends really like us, and you have a recipe for disaster. Rosenstock is able to address all of these thoughts and fears on WORRY. while still giving an upbeat and hopeful finale.
Even outside of Rosenstock’s incredible ability to express himself lyrically, the album is musically sound. While each track is individually great, when listening to the album as a whole the tracks blend together beautifully, despite their diversity in sound. At one point they go from Rosenstock’s now signature emo-power-pop-punk style to straight up ska, to a 30 second hardcore song, and back again completely seamlessly; you could mistake them for a single, really long song instead of four separate ones. Throughout its stylistic changes, WORRY. is full of hand claps and gang vocals, making it feel enough like a live show that you find yourself clapping along but not quite enough the quell the desire to actually go to a live show. It’s music you want to interact with. Admittedly, Rosenstock’s vocal abilities are nothing to write home about, but you don’t really notice once he’s got a band behind him; John DeDomenici (bass), Mike Huguenor (guitar), and Kevin Higuchi (drums) add power and musicality to Rosenstock’s shouting.
The album culminates with two tracks that epitomize what Jeff Rosenstock’s music is about. “…When You’re Alive” discusses the importance of expressing love to those around you while you can. Rosenstock muses that love isn’t made up of the grand gestures shown on TV, but rather the little everyday expressions of affection. Rosenstock continues punching up as “…When You’re Alive” blends into “Perfect Sound Whatever”, in which Rosenstock alludes to his struggles to find the right ways to react and words to express himself. He admits to the perfectionism shared by many with similar anxieties, but the thing is, “Perfect always takes so long because it doesn’t exist.” It doesn’t, but I think WORRY. may be as close as we get.
Jeff Rosenstock is a voice for the average guy in modern America at a time when so many are trying and failing to speak for us. We’re not the 1% or the police or our presidential nominees, and we’re certainly not perfect; we’re terrified of the future and of ourselves. Rosenstock reminds us that it sucks to be scared, but you can be scared and make kick ass music, you can be scared and fall in love. WORRY. is the kind of record that rips your heart out of your chest and shoves it back in again, but, somehow, in a comforting way.
Rating: 8 out of 8 slices