Rosenstock’s ‘We Cool?’ an emotional vortex

This album was the most fun I’ve ever had listening to sad music. “We Cool?” has an overarching sound of pop rock and upbeat rhythms that are very misleading to the overall dark tone of the lyrics in the album. This odd coupling of blood­-pumping, fast-paced music and wistfully, dismal lyrics creates a weird feeling of excitement and fun, mixed with disheartening angst.

This is Jeff Rosenstock’s newest LP, and he sticks to his sound of punk/indie rock. The album is heavily influenced by Jeff’s musical history with bands like Bomb The Music Industry and Andrew Jackson Jihad, both of which I enjoy for the most part. After his most recent band, Bomb The Music Industry, disbanded in 2014, he went into solo work and made this LP.

“We Cool?” is not for everyone. The pop ­rock sound this album brings to the table isn’t anything new or innovative and may sound stale to some people. Songs like “Novelty Sweater” are  reminiscent of Weezer and can sound cheap and unoriginal at times.

At the same time he brings so many positive elements from pop rock, folk music, and alternative country to the album that I can’t help but like some of what I’m hearing. This wide use of sounds is evident in songs like “Beers Again Alone” and “Nausea.”

Jeff’s vocals throughout the album are very active and grab the emotions of the wounding lyrics. His voice amplifies the layers of epic instrumentation found throughout the album, creating depth to the music that really pulls the listener in. If you like catchy, fast­-paced, pop ­rock sound, you’ll love this album.

The lyrics are very dark. They sound like they’re written by a young person about to take on life but is filled with uncertainty, discouragement, apathy and grief. The lyrics also address death and regrets, making it sound like Jeff is going through a midlife crisis. He talks about death, like in the song “Polar Bear or Africa,” as being a purge of your existence.

I’ve found more songs to love on this album than to hate. An example of this are the two songs, “Polar Bear or Africa” and “Hall of Fame,” which mesh together so well, musically and lyrically, that it’s hard to distinguish them as two different tracks.

Jeff’s unbridled singing makes these lyrics tear at emotions. I find myself wanting to sing along to the hooks in tracks like “Nausea” and “I’m Serious, I’m Sorry.”

There is one song that seems very out of place in the album, however.“All Blissed Out” is drenched in reverb, which really covers up the music and the vocals with a echo­y film. It is also very slow and dreary unlike the rest of the album.

The song does explode towards the end, releasing the music that should’ve been brought out throughout the song in a very epic fashion. Still, for the album’s worst song, it’s not bad in its own right.

I rated “We Cool?” with a B+ in general but based on my own enjoyment I would rate it as an A. The upbeat tone makes the songs fun, catchy, and exciting. The lyrics are wounding and emotional. Unrestricted vocals and added instruments create depth to the overused formula of pop rock. It flows well and keeps to its overall theme of detached loathing.

It’s not perfect, however. It’s pretty much the same sound from his past albums, just done very well this time around. The singing is not pitch­ perfect, but still sounds great. And the theme of the album is a bit negative, which some people do not enjoy hearing. Overall it’s a noteworthy album worth listening to.

This article was published in The Stallion on October 13, 2015.

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