Jeff Rosenstock’s POST- looks squarely into the belly of the beast, meditating on the current state of our union and the world at large in a way that could easily lend itself to another artist throwing their hands up and saying, “Well, what can we really do?” But it ends with the most defiant “fuck no” imaginable – one that replies to the earlier question with, “We may not know what to do, but we’re going to do everything we can to rage against this.” Everything in between is a remarkable build up towards a climax that has not yet seen a descent – because we’re not gonna let them win.

POST- was released about a month ago, so maybe it feels a little late to add to the well-deserved heaps of praise Rosenstock has been getting. Or maybe it doesn’t since this feels like an album essential to our democracy more so now than ever. Look back at WORRY., and you find someone progressing through life in a microscopic and personal way. Listen to POST-, and you see this microscope magnified to the nth degree and battles being fought on a larger scale with a lot more on the line.

In an album packed to the edges with urgency in every form possible, it’s unsurprising this album was a surprise release on January 1st – a wink and a nod to say, “This is going to be our year; there’s no time to rest – we start now.” You hear things play out, and you think this could have been recorded in a futuristic, pseudo-apocalyptic hellscape (while things may seem awful, we aren’t there yet, we swear). But Rosenstock took the gang up to the Catskills, reflected on everything past, present, and future, and kicked the shit out a recording session that took one week (86 hours to be exact) to give us one of the most critically important albums in recent years.

Everyone has heard the adage, “to hell and back,” but POST- only gets us halfway through that statement, starting with “USA.” Is there a more apt song title right now? What many struggle to put into words when it comes to their current feelings, Rosenstock takes mere seconds to do – including adjectives such as crestfallen, downtrodden, and exhausted. It’s this last word that seems to encapsulate the seemingly uphill struggle, yet the word never gains full power over an album teeming with energy and rawness.

Where WORRY., for all its glory, felt trapped at times within a specific radius that was still relatable, POST- hurls itself across coasts and even borders with the first extended “whoaaaaaaa.” We’re tired, but we keep going. “Yr Throat” sounds like a high noon showdown between the man and someone wearing a Clash tank top. With its Old West stampede rumbling intro, the track lends its way to more anthemic qualities while asking the question, “What’s the point of having a voice when it gets stuck inside your throat?” You then get led from voice to the whole body on “All This Useless Energy,” a track that bottles a Pinkerton-era vibe into feelings of malaise and unrest.

A personal favorite, “Powerlessness” builds an intersection between hope and despair, progress and stagnation. You get a story about someone riding high after some glimmer of success in resisting that they kind of forget about the long-term fight that needs to take place. And once they realize that, the sinking feeling starts to slither in again, and retreat strengthens its grip. How in the hell can you fix the world when you can’t even fix yourself?

On “TV Stars,” he sounds like he received an assist from Jim Steinman to take on the obsession with pseudo-celebrity culture that vomits itself through our TV screens. Daydreaming of a restart powers the otherwise shittness of current events on “Melba,” and “Beating My Head Against A Wall” could be about a frustrating personal argument, but it fits just as easily in the grander scheme of things and the trend against facts and information in the war against “fake news.” No matter how right you might be, some people will simply refuse to acknowledge that because stubbornness, and ego is more important than, you know, actual dialogue and learning. Penultimate track “9/10” has a drunken, small town carnival feel – a track with bells and jittery movements that is swallowed in a fog of memories while living in a haze of yore.

Apologies for rushing through those tracks, but one has to understand that each step is absolutely leading to something on POST-, and that something is “Let Them Win.” Rosenstock starts things off with a list of what people can do, and have been doing, in an attempt to drag us down. And it’s not just one thing. No, he gets that the powers that be want to compound each thing so that the collective of these moments becomes too much to overcome. But if you’re Team Rosenstock, you’re not going to let them win.

What starts off as an almost dragging dirge builds into bubble, then a shaking ground, then cracks in the façade appear, and then a soul-rattling call to action – “We’re not gonna let them win.” We’re then left with a calm, a quiet before an inevitable storm, a ray of light that makes us think maybe everything is still worth fighting for.

Jeff Rosenstock is currently on tour. Check out the dates here. Get out there and see him – we did in July, and it was a highlight of 2017 without a doubt. And again – get the digital album from his bandcamp. Polyvinyl will be releasing the physical product in late March.