On its seventh record, the Portland trio Sleater-Kinney finds itself in the same predicament as its heroes Sonic Youth and tour mates Pearl Jam: It's honed its sound so precisely that it has to decide where to go next. With The Woods, the answers are jumping to indie-label heavyweight Sub Pop, enlisting Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann, and embracing an aggressively live recording style. But as even diehard fans acknowledge, Sleater-Kinney always fiercely makes the same record. The new disc may be less buoyant than One Beat, more jam-heavy than All Hands on the Bad One, and less spectacular than Dig Me Out, but what forever remains are Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein's cool guitar lines, feminist insight and utter lack of bitterness at this war-torn, misogynistic world. The fairy-tale scorcher "The Fox" and the poignantly conflicted tranquility of "Modern Girl" suggest that for a familiar sound, they still can make it swing.
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