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DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT TIMES


The New Abnormal
, The Strokes’ first album since 2013 (released 4/10 on Cult/RCA), just may be the best-reviewed album of 2020 thus far. The critical consensus is that the veteran band’s sixth studio effort is “their best since the glory days of the early ’00s” (Rolling Stone’s Jon Dolan), and numerous reviews make note of its uncanny timeliness, telegraphed by the album title.

Vulture’s Chris Murphy speculates that “The New Abnormal will be the perfect soundtrack to help us adjust to our new, abnormal lives.” And Brooklyn Vegan’s Andrew Sacher asserts that, while The Strokes finished The New Abnormal “before the current pandemic, the LP’s “more somber songs…really capture the mood of 2020 and sound the best in this moment.”

“Twenty years on from the band’s first flush of stardom, they represent, in retrospect, maybe the last true spark of rock & roll as a marker of cultural currency, EW’s Leah Greenblatt reflects. “Abnormal offers something even better, possibly, than reckless youth: rock stars finally old enough to truly miss those good old days — and wise enough now, too, to give us the soundtrack these strange new times deserve.”

The LP, The New York TimesJon Pareles points out, “has the Strokes thinking in the long term not only about pop careers but about relationships, even the state of the environment. [Julian] Casablancas remains skeptical of just about everyone, definitely including himself.”

The most eloquent critique was penned by the unfailingly insightful Amanda Petrusich for The New Yorker. Describing the LP as “eerily prescient,” she writes, “This is a lonesome and frightening time, and nostalgia is a heavy and intoxicating force. The New Abnormal sounds better to me than almost anything else I’ve listened to this spring. The album was produced by Rick Rubin, whose method consists mostly of stripping songs of extraneous or maudlin elements, compressing the audio, and pumping up the volume. Rubin can turn an ordinary song into a bullet. His practice of reduction and amplification doesn’t work for every artist, but this distillation has made the Strokes sound only sharper and more potent.”

The lone dissenter we’ve come across is Pitchfork’s Sam Sodomsky, whose review (to borrow from the sour tone of its verbiage) mostly just seems like he had a hangover while he was listening to it.

Petrusich, by contrast, finds The New Abnormal the ideal balm for these troubled times. “The Strokes’ music makes everything feel less high-stakes,” she notes. “This might be why it sounds so good in an emergency.”

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