Louise Post: Sleepwalker [Album Review]

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Louise Post
El Camino Media [2023]

Nearly 30 years since Louise Post and her partner in crime Nina Gordon burst on the post-grunge alt/rock scene in the band Veruca Salt, Post has stepped away from her band to pursue a solo career and a broader musical palette rooted in more personal storytelling. Arriving on the scene with other female fronted groups like Sleater-Kinney and L7, hitting the road opening for Hole, Veruca Salt’s sound was guitar heavy, influenced by hard rock and punk, not like Dinosaur Jr. fronted by Liz Phair on vocals. Post, who is said to have inspired Dave Grohl to write “Everlong” and who sang her harmony vocals for the recording over the phone, is the only member who appears on all five Veruca Salt studio albums, including the band’s original member reunion album, Ghost Notes, in 2015.

While there’s plenty of pop-oriented material on Post’s solo debut, she opens with the noisy, rockin’ feminist manifesto, “Queen of the Pirates,” where she insists “you’re inferior to me,” because she is a “demon in a dress,” and will “go on and on and on.’ Then, as if to assure Veruca fans that she still has what it takes to rock their world, she digs into the Pixie-ish “Guilty,” with its serious bassline through the verses, and the big, distorted guitars on the power/pop chorus. Her bona fides established, Post reveals her poppier inclinations with a Jenny Lewis like turn on “What About,” which rehearses a tortured romantic history, and the electronic pop look at relationships that are “All Messed Up,” with a female singalong chorus that wanders deep into Eilish/Swift level pop songcraft. For “Killer,” a political look at police violence where “white hands gonna give you a second chance,” the strong, fast bass line returns for the more aggressive attack that matches the vocal in your face approach.

Post plays guitar, bass, and piano throughout, and worked with producer and multi-instrumentalist Matt Drenik (Lions, Battleme), and a variety of guest studio players to flesh out her musical visions. The album’s title, Sleepwalker, reflects not only on her childhood experiences of walking around the house while asleep, but that many of the melodies and lyrical points on the songs here came to her as she was waking up. While most of Post’s career found her voice practically shouting to be heard over the twin guitar attack on Veruca Salt, on the piano pop balladry of “Hollywood Hills” her gently song “do-do-do-do’s” have plenty of room in the mix to breathe. In the gentle folk/pop of “Secrets,” there’s space for a trumpet solo, and again on “Don’t Give Up,” as Post moves into more of a pop song posture on the album’s second half. Post closes out the album with another electronic anthem about the challenges of modern life, “The Way We Live,” which seems to depend on our ability to coexist and “the way we forgive.” In many ways, Sleepwalker seeks to reinvent Louise Post, as a rock and pop artist for fans who appreciate a wider range of sounds and pop melodies, and still grind one out when it’s called for.

“Guilty” / “What About” / “Killer”

Liz Phair / Jenny Lewis / Veruca Salt

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Brian Q. Newcomb

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