Photo From: http://www.independent.co.uk/
Written by: Vincent Nijenhuis
Sleater Kinney is great. This is a fact. Their eight current released albums have all been met with critical acclaim, little commercial success, and has granted them the official title of indie darlings. Now, like with all indie darlings that actually managed to make good music for as long as they have, it’s hard to name just five tracks to be considered their best. I could have easily written an entire article about all these songs, and at least a dozen more, but here’s what I consider the top five Sleater Kinney songs in no particular order.
“Call the Doctor” (Call the Doctor 1996)
This is Sleater Kinney’s feminist anthem. This is a song that openly discusses the way women are socialized from a young age to be of service to men, and if they go against this programming, they are “messing with what’s sacred” to men: maintaining their privileged. The “sacred” being the oppression women experience on a daily basis. This song also defined what we now consider staples of Sleater Kinney’s sound: beautifully strange guitar riffs that rely on the other to be alive like two symbiotic beings, and harmonies that often comment on the other’s blunt, honest lyrics to give two different perspectives and voices on the same subject matter.
“Modern Girl” (The Woods 2005)
Here is Sleater Kinney talking about that darn patriarchy again. Granted, this song is sounds more like something off Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors than it does anything off Call the Doctor. Similarly to “Go Your Own Way” off Rumors, this song lures you in by offering a seemingly happy, uplifting folksy pop song, but quickly shows the anger, and desperation through the cracks of the facade. On “Modern Girl,” Carrie Brownstein is freely singing about the hollow outline we force women into, and when they don’t fit that outline, they are worthless yet still have to feed on the empty calories the world has given them. Given the subject matter, it should be no surprised that Brownstein gives her most complex, and compelling vocal performance to date ranging from guttural screams to sounding like soft, soothing waves crushing against my ears all within the same line. Brilliant, simply brilliant.
“A Real Man” (Sleater-Kinney 1995)
64 seconds is all Corin Tucker has to take ownership over her own body, and let everyone know it only belongs to her. She roars with her refusal to give into an society that tells girls that their bodies are only there to be fucked by “a real man.” Her body is her choice, and only has 64 seconds to let us know it. She gets it across in 12. The other 52 seconds are her reminding us why she needs to shriek out this message: men don’t think no is a full sentence.
“Sympathy” (One Beat 2000)
“Sympathy” has easily the darkest subject matter Sleater Kinney has ever tackled. It’s also their most feminine. A mother pleading with God to let her child live, and confessing her body might be a toxin to life itself. It’s powerful to say the least. Of course, this is all said over a choppy punk infused blues guitar riff. Corin Tucker’s wailing vocals are more passionate, and raw than her already usual rough jagged vibrato out of desperation to get God to listen to her pleas. Carrie Brownstein’s incredible, uncharacteristically subtle guitar playing doesn’t dare interrupt Tucker’s pleas. Instead, they simply amplify them.
“Words and Guitar” (Dig Me Out 1997)
This song manages to perfectly encapsulate the desperation we feel when we just need to listen to identify with words we can’t find yet. Tucker’s vocals are more slushed and unintelligible than usual, only adding to the song’s urgency to simply be felt, not necessarily heard. Her vocals paired with one of best pop punk riff of all time are stripped to the necessities to make a great song. In doing that, it reveals our primal irrational need for music.