Eleven years on from its last album, indie rock/emo trio Rainer Maria returned with its sixth LP, S/T, on August 18, 2017. The group’s breakup in December 2006 came months after the release of Catastrophe Keeps Up Together and a front page feature in the New York Times arts section. S/T finds the group as fierce and gritty as ever and with new energy from each member’s journey in the intervening years.
Singer Caithlin De Marrais left New York (where Rainer Maria had been based), for the country and released two spare, understated pop albums. William Kuehn, the group’s drummer, lived in Syria and Yemen, where he continued to play and to study music in a variety of approaches and styles. Guitarist Kaia Fischer studied Tibetan language and Tibetan Buddhism—leading to her living in Asia—and came out as a trans person, as well.
These experiences coalesced on S/T‘s nine tracks, directly and indirectly affecting the group’s sound. De Marrais’s softer records gave her voice a chance to fully reveal its beauty, which she brings to the songs on S/T. The album’s lyrics and songs’ titles are full of natural imagery (track titles include “Forest Mattress” and “Blackbird”) inspired by her move to the country.
Standout track “Possession” opens with only De Marrais’s quietly ominous singing and a softly twinkling melody. The section lasts 20 seconds before a crunching guitar dives in to dominate the song’s sound. De Marrais’s voice is equal to the guitar, and she screams right along with it until the track quiets down again and she returns to a softer tone. “Suicides and Lazy Eyes,” the album’s second single, is more uptempo. It drops the methodical, grinding distortion of “Possession” in favor a charging guitar riff.
- Our Picks for the Best Albums of 2017
- New Music Preview: Franz Ferdinand, Belle and Sebastian, and Brandi Carlile
- Campfire Songs: Take This Playlist on Your Next Camping Trip
- Music to Cheers to: A Christmas Playlist that Doesn’t Suck (Finally)
- New Music Preview: Calexico, Cadence Weapon, and First Aid Kit