Rainer Maria - S/T (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Rainer Maria

S/T (2017)


Rainer Maria have endured a long and winding road. S/T feels like the closing chapter in their journal after documenting all of this. Now, that's not to say this feels like an album to go out on. Far from. In fact, this comeback record -- the band's first since 2006 -- feels like their most mature, seasoned and solid body of work to date and also, it feels like they're pressing forward like never before in a world mangled by torn emotions. This is what S/T encapsulates in fact -- emotions all over the place but guided by love in a cruel, cold world. It's not a Rainer Maria record I think I would have enjoyed in the 90's or 2000's but like the band says here, age brings a certain degree of wisdom. That's why older me can't stop listening to this amazing hard-rock/emo record.

There's so much on tap here. "Broke Open Love" talks about change in a grungy Mineral-esque manner with vocalist Caithlin De Marrais going on about exposing your heart and also changing yourself to find your place. She also addresses Kaia Fischer's (guitarist, vocalist) coming out as transgender with her impassioned lyrics and powerful voice as clean as ever. Everyone has been doing such different things and gone through so many vast experiences in the last 11 years and it feels great hearing them kick off like this. William Kuehn's drums are just the tip of the iceberg as well, as he took his first stab at producing their own record. And it's a smart move because the production is intimate, polished but it allows De Marrais' vocals to stay at the front.

It's evident on the poppier songs like "Suicide and Lazy Eyes" and "Forest Mattress", and the 70's rock-influenced "Lower Worlds." A friend told me she found they sounded like Hole and honestly, on these songs I couldn't fault her. Then you've got "Blackbird" which isn't just emo, it's what PJ Harvey fans like me wanted to hear -- a Rainer Maria that's as versatile and exploratory as ever. Not angry, not pissed... just... tempered. But make no mistake, they're not subdued. 

Take in the start-stop banger on "Possession" or the buzzy "Ornaments of Empty" which ends on a blitz that fans of Smashing Pumpkins or Silversun Pickups would go crazy for. By the time "Hellebore" wraps things, emphasizing the importance of family, you can't help but feel like this was worth the wait. It's a slow, distorted burner with everything syncing up so well. Heart-pounding percussion, thick basslines choking you out and guitar riffs that grate at you like Monday morning traffic. This is S/T calling out to you and reminding you to stay awake in life because the weights will keep bearing down on you. However, if we stay the course like Rainer Maria, we'll come out on top. A triumphant return right here, to say the least.