#12 of my Top 50 Albums of 2020: https://www.albumoftheyear.org/user/chode/list/29961/chodes-top-50-albums-of-2020/
The New Abnormal is the best Strokes album since Is This It.
The 2010s have been a decade full of disappointment for the Strokes. While Angles was a personal favorite of mine from their discography, their other 2 projects released that decade, the disappointing Comedown Machine and the pointless and boring Future Present Past EP which saw The Strokes running on fumes off of their own sound, were easily the two worst albums in The Strokes discography. They saw The Strokes at their most uninspired and least creative. In comparison, The New Abnormal seems like a new start for The Strokes. This collection of songs see Julian and the crew at their most creative in years and feels less like a follow-up to Comedown Machine and Future Present Past and more like a rebirth for the band.
The album opens with The Adults Are Talking, which plays a bit like an extension of the classic Strokes formula. It sounds like a cleaner version of a track off of their earlier material. The hook of this track is an absolute earworm and one of the catchiest in The Strokes’ discography, I love the back and forth the guitars are having with them switching channels to represent two adults talking, the instrumental here is classic Strokes, Julian’s vocals are as colorful as ever, and the outro of the track is pure bliss.
The following two tracks feel a bit throwaway for me and are easily my two least favorite across the record. Selfless, while it has some beautiful passages and I love the nostalgic synths on this thing, is a tad bit boring, although I do see its place in this tracklisting as being kinda essential. Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus, on the other hand, just feels like filler. I like Julian’s singing on the hook here although I do find the synths here a bit too tacky for my liking and the verses are kinda forgettable. Still, the track isn’t garbage, it just feels like filler. However, the album makes a great rebound with Bad Decisions. The instrumental feels like a classic Strokes song with a bit of a Beach Boys twist and the repeated “I’m making bad decisions” hook is another super catchy hook. It’s like The Strokes are going back to their classic formula but adding subtle details to make it more improved for the modern age.
At the Door is easily one of the best songs of the year. It’s insane how much of a punch this instrumental can pack despite it being almost entirely comprised of minimalistic synths. Julian’s singing across this thing is so passionate yet so catchy and I love Julian’s heartfelt lyrics of being stuck in a neverending cycle that you want to break out of but can’t. This track becomes even more amazing when you look at fact that this was the lead single for the record, a track that is so drastically different from the rest of The Strokes’ discography and a track that they knew a lot of their fans would hate. It’s such a bold artistic risk to make a song like this your lead single and it’s even bolder for said risk to pan out in such a rewarding way. Eternal Summer is another super-left field moment, showing some love to psychedelic rock. Sure, some of the passages are a bit too Tame Impala and Pink Floyd inspired but as a whole track it feels like an absolute odyssey. The shimmering guitar plucks combined with the everchanging instrumental and Julian’s heaven-like choir boy falsetto vocals make for a beautiful trip of a track that sounds like the sun shining down while you lay down on the beach’s shore.
Why Are Sundays so depressing and Not The Same Anymore kinda feel like old Strokes songs with twists to make them feel fresh and new. They’re both amazing however I don’t have much to say about them. Ode to The Mets, on the other hand, closes out this album and it closes the album out damn good. The yo-yoing synths are placed behind these minimalistic and bleak yet stunning guitars and drums. And Julian’s singing on this track… dear god… this is some of the best in The Strokes entire discography. The singing is so passionate and the track has this super emotional feel with how larger than life Julian’s singing is here. The lyrics are just as passionate as Julian recollects on the early days of the group. The track also culminates in this beautiful instrumental collage that ranks among my favorite musical moments of the year. This entire record just feels like The Strokes born anew. The Strokes take a huge stylistic risk adding this new synth-heavy sound to their pre-established style and sound to keep it fresh and it pans out in the best way imaginable. It truly creates what is not only one of the most gratifying albums in the entire Strokes catalog but also one of the year’s best and most addictive listens.
FAV TRACKS: The Adults are Talking, Bad Decisions, Eternal Summer, At the Door, Why Are Sundays So Depressing, Not The Same Anymore, Ode To The Mets
LEAST FAV TRACK: Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus
EDIT: Best Strokes (88 -> 95)