Little Rope, the 11th studio album from Sleater-Kinney — their second since long-time drummer Janet Weiss’ departure —is an emotional hellscape showcasing vulnerability, heartbreak and grief. The duo, Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein, use their distinct but matured DIY, riot grrrl sound to navigate the dark times and low points of life with a formidable strength and a little hope.
That may sound grim, but I find it to be quite comforting. There’s reassurance at the end of “Crusader,” where they voice their solidarity with the listener: “You’re never alone, we’re always with you now / The words, the beat, the sound.”
On Little Rope, the words, beat, and sound of Sleater-Kinney come together for a tight ten tracks of sorrow and resilience with the band’s signature guitar riffs and loud, gutsy rhythm from Angie Boylan confidently commanding the sticks.
Aside from the singles that came out pre-release (“Hell,” “Say It Like You Mean It,” and “Untidy Creature”)—which are three absolutely modern punk rock gems—”Dress Yourself,” “Hunt You Down,” and “Crusader” are just as solid. In fact, each and every one of the songs on Little Rope is worthy of its own “single” moment.
“Hell” was the first single released and it is the first track on the album. Sleater-Kinney welcomes you into their world and invites you to have a new perspective on pain and injustice with this raucous and moody tune.
Brownstein elaborated on Little Rope‘s opener in an NPR interview, saying “For me, the song ‘Hell’ is about embracing the mess, reconstituting and kind of reclaiming it, you know, not thinking of it as a place to banish oneself but a place to reform ourselves, a place to just come to terms with, I think, some of the realities and the ugliness, and maybe transform that into something that’s powerful.”
It is one hell of an introduction to a raw and robust album full of darkness that only Sleater-Kinney can shine a light on.
The album’s title is found in the song “Small Finds,” which is from the perspective of a scrappy dog. “Can you gimme a little rope / Come on, gimme some.”
Tucker described her vision of the track to Apple Music:
Tucker: The character in it is a dog, and it’s about taking away all of that cerebral angst that we live with every day, and we worry about things and getting into our bodies and thinking about, ‘Well, what is meaningful in the everyday life? What is some joy I can seek out?’
Lyrically, the album is full of these small finds. “Don’t Feel Right” starts off with a statement that I think a lot of people might find relatable. “I get up, make a list / What I’ll do once I’m fixed.”
The second to last track, “Dress Yourself,” has a similar vibe. Brownstein told Apple Music, “This song speaks to the modern-day predicament of somehow getting out of bed and getting ourselves prepared for the day, despite all of the existential threats.”
My personal favorite comes from the paradoxically upbeat “Hunt You Down”:
I’ve been down so long, I pay rent to the floor.
Track 8, “Crusader,” is a protest anthem, which is a familiar subject matter for Sleater-Kinney. “You’re burning all the books in this town / But you can’t destroy the words in our mouths.”
The band was born out of the riot grrrl era that became its own feminist movement. And more recently at a show in London in November 2023, Brownstein brought attention to the escalating crisis in Gaza, as reported by Clash.
Brownstein: We want a ceasefire and we want Palestinian liberation and we want peace.
As a fan of Sleater-Kinney since the 90s, this stage of their storied career is very exciting. They are speaking to being a human in this chaotic and cruel world, to being a woman or a person who’s aging, and to all those out there who yearn.
Little Rope encompasses a tired yearning, fleshing out the exhaustion that comes with it. Sleater-Kinney achieves this through their own brand of energetic indie punk rock layered with grief and introspection.
Little Rope is available through Loma Vista.
Featured photo: Sleater-Kinney Little Rope Album Artwork by Sophia Nahli Allison.