By Erin Choi
In light of recent single releases from the iconic 2000s indie-rock band Gorillaz, it seems appropriate that another band of similar fame, The Strokes, will also be coming out with new material this year. The album, titled “The New Abnormal,” is set to be released on April 10, 2020. Almost four years since their last EP, “Future Present Past,” and seven since their last studio album, “Comedown Machine,” there is great anticipation and intrigue concerning the band’s new record.
The Strokes were formed in 1998 in New York City. The band’s lead singer and front man, Julian Casablancas, met all of the members at different schools he attended growing up. The Strokes found fame almost immediately with their first studio album, “Is This It,” in 2001. Upon its release, the record became the quintessential indie rock album of the 21st century, providing a fresh sound against the nu-metal and pop-punk musical atmosphere of the time. It also paved the way for many post-punk bands to emerge, such as Arctic Monkeys and Interpol. NME and Rolling Stone magazines ranked the album best and second-best overall album of the 2000s, respectively.
Because of their spectacular debut, The Strokes’ records that followed were doomed to fall short of their freshman release. Their similar sophomore album, “Room on Fire” (2003), as well as “Angles” (2011), while similar in sound to “Is This It,” lacked the original freshness and rawness in production.
“First Impressions of Earth” (2006) was recorded during a point of high animosity amongst the band. “Comedown Machine” almost seemed to be an obligation to finish out the band’s five-album contract with Rough Trade Records, with absolutely no promotion done for its release, as well as a bare-bones album cover. None of these albums were inherently bad; in fact, they were critically good, but when constantly compared to the golden record that was “Is This It,” The Strokes’ later discography was hard-pressed to measure up.
Following a slew of artists, such as Vampire Weekend, Bon Iver, Soccer Mommy, and Public Enemy, that performed at rallies for democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, The Strokes officially debuted their new material at the New Hampshire leg of the campaign on Feb. 10, 2020. Following the performance, support and press for both The Strokes’ new album and Sanders’s campaign lit up on many social media platforms and news sources.
“The New Abnormal” is set to be composed of nine tracks and will be produced by legend Rick Rubin — known for his collaborations with Kanye West and the Beastie Boys, as well as co-founding Def Jam records. Four songs have already been performed live, two of those being released as singles, titled “At the Door” and “Bad Decisions.”
“At the Door” is a melancholic and crooning synth-ballad. The lyrics express the sad end to a relationship, as well as unfulfilled goals, similar to the band’s album and track “Is This It.” These emotional lyrics are liltingly brought to life by Casablancas’ Lou Reed-esque vocals, which are distinct and tender. The synth riff echoes and booms as the dominant instrument, eventually joined by sparse guitars and bass drum, as well as ringing organs and chorus. The song burns slowly and beautifully with a raw and bare energy, never quite coming to a climax.
In an almost complete 180-degree turn, the band released “Bad Decisions” just one week after “At the Door.” Reminiscent of The Strokes’ more notable discography, this single mixes their classic garage-rock-revival sound with ’80s new-wave. The guitar riff is distinctly post-punk and the drums are driving and heady. The chorus’ melody takes from Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself.” While the lyrics of “Bad Decisions” may speak to the turbulent relationship of Casablancas’ parents, the sound of the song is almost hedonistic in its catchiness, and a nice contrast in both tempo and feeling to “At the Door.”
Both new singles from The Strokes are gorgeous and ultimately nostalgia-inducing, not in the sense of a return to “the old Strokes,” but in an emphatically unique, warm, and vintage sound. If these two tracks are any indicator of their new album, “The New Abnormal,” there can be no doubt of the quality of the record to come.