Illustration by Mahgul Farooqui

Earwormz: The New Abnormal

We’re out! Read about The Strokes’ latest album for the last edition of this music column

Seven years after their last album Comedown Machine and four years after their latest EP, New York darlings and pioneers of modern rock, The Strokes, have released their sixth studio album “The New Abnormal.”. Coincidently titled to match our current global situation, The Strokes take this album to remind us that they are masters of their style and are not going to let it get old.
First and foremost, this album differs from its predecessors with its production quality. Gone are the days of self-induced distortion as heavy-hitting producer Rick Rubin introduces a crisp production that at first may seem misguided to long-term fans of the band. However, after an album run-through, alongside lead singer Julian Casablancas’ masterful falsetto, you notice how Rubin’s production style actually adds another layer of tightness to the album’s discussion of abnormal expectations of conformity.
While the band has been around for two decades now, the album shows us they still have tricks up their sleeves. With album opener “The Adults are Talking,” we hear a very classic Strokes guitar style and a matching bass line and Casablancas’ familiar speak-singing style, followed by a song-carrying falsetto. The song follows Casablancas’ lyric “here and everywhere,” and the song loses control just as he does. Lyrically, we are introduced to an idiomatic resistance, possibly addressing the band’s refusal to conform to popular styles set by the music industry.
Clearly learning and growing with their side projects, particularly Casablancas’ band The Voidz, the track “Eternal Summer” is a pointed commentary on climate change embodied in an undeniably catchy beat that feels like a love song. With an easy-flowing psychedelic bassline, Casablancas walks us through the ‘eleventh hour’ of climate change denial that has brought upon us an endless summer. “They got the remedy, but they won’t let it happen,” sings Casablancas, as the track reminds us of how The Strokes do not shy away from socio-political commentary. The song encompasses the uncensored creativity that brought the band to stardom in the first place — it is as politically charged as it is avant-garde.
It’s not all psychedelic experimental. Moving closer to the abnormal, the album strips down the heavy instrumentals with the lead single “At the Door.” Arguably the peak of Rubin-inspired production quality, Casablancas’ voice takes charge behind a looming synthesizer. This track reminds us of how Fabrizio Moretti’s familiar drumming rhythms are abnormally absent. The song is sonically simple, giving room for Casablancas’ voice, crisp as day, to take us on a lyrical journey that discusses the pressures of stardom.
Casablancas continues to translate his life into lyrics that narrate personal and attentive stories. In the 80’s synth-pop inspired “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus,” he reminisces on his and the band’s past and the people left behind, singing “Juliet, I adore” during the high-energy closer, before switching to the melancholy and nostalgia that comes with the acceptance of loss in “Not the Same Anymore.” Here, Casablancas laments and reflects on the relationships he lost due to carelessness, “Late again, I can't grow up / And now it's on me, they've given up”. Almost disturbingly private, the song’s long-winding outro feels like the perfect album closer.
But of course, they didn’t end it without a reference to the city that raised them. The ultimate track, “Ode to the Mets,” plays out as a beautiful, slow-burning journal entry on how their past two decades have brought the best out of each of the five Strokes. Looking back at their history together, this ode is perhaps the antithesis of “Is This It,” the song that kicked it all off twenty years ago. Gone are the old ways and the old times. As the lyrics go, “The only thing that’s left is us.” All that is left is this feeling of abnormal familiarity with the streets of New York City; the streets where they found their sound.
You know that feeling when you read a hardback book in one sitting, trading your perception of time for complete immersion in the book’s contents? As you hold the hardbound skin behind the last page, your eye catches a little blurb about the author on the cover leaf: where they are from, what they do in the summers, how their dogs are doing. The “Ode to the Mets” is their author’s bio. As The Strokes find their “old ways at the bottom of the ocean” with this album, we close this column. This band has played a phenomenal role in honing our ears and shaping our tastes, and there is no better way we could have asked to sign off.
Thanks for reading.
Reema El-Kaiali is a Columnist, and Aravind Kumar is Features Editor. Email them at
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