Album: The Woods
. . .
Coming a whopping three full years after One Beat, Sleater-Kinney’s 2005 album, The Woods reflected the inevitable slowing down that happens with any band as it enters its second decade and making music becomes not the only passion, but one of many.
However, “slowing down” doesn’t always mean retreating to your past, and The Woods was probably the most experimental Sleater-Kinney album to date, as they tried out blown-up song structures (“What’s Mine is Yours”), 11-minute big rock extravaganzas (“Let’s Call It Love”), and straightforward indie (“Jumpers.”)
Recorded mostly live in the studio, The Woods got a few Zeppelin comparisons, but I hear more White Light White Heat, given all of the red-lined guitars and crazed distortion, which makes an appearance on the relatively calm “Modern Girl,” in which Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker’s guitars start by pleasantly frolicking with each other while Brownstein sings about domestic tranquility.
My baby loves me, I’m so happy
Happy makes me a modern girl
Took my money and bought a TV
TV brings me closer to the world
Obviously, there’s a bit of foreshadowing in the early David Byrne-ish lyric “TV brings me closer to the world,” as Brownstein’s success as a TV star quite literally brought her closer to the world, or at least the other way around. Which, of course, was as impossible to know in 2005 as it is impossible to ignore in 2021.
That said when she sings “my whole life was like a picture on a sunny day” in the first chorus, you might be trying to figure out if she’s being ironic, even as an organ with every key held down at once burbles in the background, and a harmonica — played by Janet Weiss — doubles her as she sings the second verse.
My baby loves me, I’m so hungry
Hunger makes me a modern girl
Took my money and bought a donut
The hole’s the size of this entire world
However, after the second chorus, Weiss comes in with a big stomping drum beat, the guitars go from frolicking to fisticuffs, and the entire tenor of the song changes.
My baby loves me, I’m so angry
Anger makes me a modern girl
Took my money, I couldn’t buy nothin’
I’m sick of this brave new world
At the end of the song, everything is louder than everything else, signifying — to an older white het-cis male like me — the contrasts and confusions of being a modern girl: that she could be happy, hungry and angry all at the same time makes a lot of sense from my standpoint. Meaning that there isn’t any irony in the song whatsoever.
Naturally, The Woods was the most successful Sleater-Kinney album to date: it naturally made #4 in the Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop Critics poll, #2 on Billboard’s indie chart and even #80 on their regular album chart. It was also the last album they would release in a decade, as they decided to take a hiatus: sometimes it’s hard to balance your passions as you get older, and the making of — and especially touring on — records now had more bad than good for the band.
“Modern Girl” live 2006
“Modern Girl” live at Coachella, 2006
“Modern Girl” live at Pitchfork, 2015
Modern Girl” live on NPR, 2015
Did you miss a Certain Song? Follow me on Twitter: @barefootjim
The Certain Songs Database
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.
Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)
Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page