Rolling Stone: 3 stars out of 5 -- "Emotions feel immediate on the LP, as though the ink were still drying on the page."
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- Released: July 17, 2020
- Originally Released: 2020
- Label: Columbia Records
Rolling Stone3 stars out of 5 -- "Emotions feel immediate on the LP, as though the ink were still drying on the page."
Billboard - "[T]he music Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer delivered on their first studio album in 14 years was alive in all the ways we needed it to be -- seething with rage, sick with heartbreak and soothing with humor."
Paste (magazine) - "Natalie, Emily and Martie shout their political opinions, cries for justice and messages of support on behalf of abused women everywhere from the mountaintops, all to the tune of polished, country-pop gold."
Pitchfork (Website) - "[A] genuinely compelling new take on the punchy country sound that's always made them stand out."
Clash (Magazine) - "[F]uriously easy on the ear. Gilded country pop as only Natalie Maines, Emily Stayer, and Martie Maguire can provide, it's a sign that the Texas group retain something special that their copyists can only dream about reaching."
- 2.Sleep at Night
- 3.Texas Man
- 4.Everybody Loves You
- 5.For Her
- 6.March March
- 7.My Best Friend's Weddings
- 8.Tights on My Boat
- 9.Julianna Calm Down
- 10.Young Man
- 11.Hope It's Something Good
- 12.Set Me Free
The Chicks ended the 2000s utterly exhausted, worn out from ginned-up political scandals and a subsequent abandonment by Nashville's country music establishment. They managed to rally to record Taking the Long Way in 2006, a flinty collection that took home the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2007, and then Natalie Maines, Emily Strayer, and Martie Maguire went their separate ways, spending the subsequent decade tending to family and personal projects. The trio inched back toward activity in 2016, embarking on an international reunion tour, but new songs were slow in coming. Eventually, the group bore down in the studio, collaborating with Jack Antonoff, the producer who worked with Taylor Swift on her pop crossover albums, on the record that became 2020's Gaslighter. Antonoff's presence is a clear indication that the Chicks are finished playing music that could conceivably be called country, yet they haven't opted for glitzy good times, either. Gaslighter may be dressed in digital flair -- its title track gleams in its precise polish -- but the album bears the scars of middle age along with the defiance that comes with surviving those initial wounds. Although many of Maines' songs appear to be inspired by a sour separation -- prior to the record's release, her ex-husband claimed the lyrics violated a confidentiality clause in their prenup, but the matter was settled out of court once their divorce was finalized -- there's a clean, cold edge to her words that indicate she's not wallowing, she's moving forward. Gaslighter hums along with this sense of momentum: these are songs about leaving (but not forgetting) the past for a future that's complicated yet filled with potential. Given this gravity, perhaps it's appropriate that much of the album moves a little slower than a pop album should. "Texas Man" works itself into a bit of a synthesized fever and "March March" proceeds at a steely, steady clip, but that's about it: the rest of the record moves deliberately, allowing plenty of space for the raw feeling to stand in the spotlight. While these songs are spare and direct enough to withstand simpler instrumentation, the arrangements the Chicks worked up with Antonoff are subtle and sly; they wrap themselves around the bones of the melody, accentuating the emotions underpinning the songs. Gaslighter itself is filled with tangled, contradictory emotions, a place where vulnerability signals strength, and this complexity conveys how the Chicks have opened up a new chapter in their career. They've left behind their original name, their old connections, their old genre, and are firmly focused on the future. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine