The Woods (Sub Pop)

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Seven albums in, Sleater-Kinney has finally delivered the real Hot Rock -- The Woods is ablaze with the Oregon trio's loudest, fiercest, most attention-grabbing set of tunes yet. Opener "The Fox" is one of the more straightforward wallops: A thick film of ultra-distortion coats the mammoth dual-guitar crush of Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein, the roiling stickwork of Janet Weiss and the incendiary howls that fly out of Tucker's throat. The threesome gets a bit more sly, but no less potent, on the standout "Jumpers," a song about Golden Gate Bridge suicides that pits the melodic motorik groove and harrowing vocal harmonies in its verses ("The only substance is the fog/And it hides all that has gone wrong") against its raucous chorus, bridge and coda. The Woods' most commanding performance comes in its final stretch, though, with the one-two punch of "Let's Call It Love" and "Night Light": The former's eleven minutes of righteous guitar noise, gut-busting wails and industrial-riveter drums bleeding into the latter's smoldering angular-blues lament effectively cap Sleater-Kinney's finest, most powerful album to date.

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