Music Reviews

Jeff Rosenstock NO DREAM

(Polyvinyl) Rating - 8/10

Moments into Jeff Rosenstock’s fifth album, the crushing existential anxiety that he’s made his career out of kicks into place. On NO DREAM’s 55-second opener, he announces that nothing has changed in his world with the line “When you wake, does it feel like you have a purpose?” With that line alone, we get a sense that Rosenstock is going to continue doing what he does best: bluntly articulating a specific type of worry that 25 through 40-year-olds are feeling and have been feeling since the dawn of time. With 2016’s WORRY., he perfected that sentiment (“love is worry”), but everything he’s released since has been a solid reminder that even if you can eloquently explain your problems, it doesn’t mean they go away. At least Rosenstock can turn that feeling into great art, as his latest album continues a superb batting streak.

All of Rosenstock’s favorite topics are on display here: feeling like a fraud (Nikes), the reality of making ends meet (***BNB), political unrest (NO DREAM), and the giddy excitement of love (Honeymoon Ashtray), but his lyrics are as sharp as always, with each song having one line that’s an ultimate encapsulation of what that song is trying to achieve. Scram! is an early peak, with verses that summarize how it feels when people with power listen to people in need and shrug at those struggles. Towards the end of the song, a nearly proto-metalcore breakdown acts as an infectious explosion of tension. On the sticky f a m e, the infectious call of “you will not control, leave me the fuck alone” is underlined with a great guitar solo and giant gang vocals, leaving a bittersweet taste in the listeners' mouth. The first half of Old Crap is vaguely reminiscent of We Cool? opener Get Old Forever, but it eventually opens up into one of Rosenstock’s loneliest songs in ages, complete with an uncomfortable boom of crashing drums and melancholic guitar work.

NO DREAM carries the listener comfortably through Rosenstock’s entire wheelhouse, leaving no genre unturned. From the lovely power-pop of ***BNB, to the hardcore touches on N O D R E A M, it’s a wonder that the album feels as cohesive as it does. There isn’t a moment here that’s too long or a hook that’s repeated too much; no matter what Jeff’s doing, he sounds like he’s fully in control. Closer Ohio Tpke climaxes with the repeated call of “I miss coming home to you, I hate coming home, I hate leaving home,” portraying the endless cycle of touring and missing the people who ground his life as a saddening necessary evil. He writes about his wife earlier on this song with the charming and genuinely sweet line: “You know you're the only person that I wanted to like me.” It’s a line where Rosenstock’s heart is entirely on his sleeve, a mode that he should explore as often as possible. With NO DREAM, Jeff Rosenstock illustrates how easy it is to jump from happy to sad, and while it may be disappointing, the people and things you love will make it comforting to settle in between.