The Chicks Re-Launch with the release of their new album Gaslighter!

By: Cody Sikes

Gaslighter is the fifth studio album for the ex-The Dixie Chicks and the first release under the group’s new name, The Chicks. Their last album, Taking the Long Way was released in 2006, earning five Grammy Awards, including “Album of the Year”, “Record of the Year, and “Song of the Year” (“Not Ready to Make Nice”). 

They’re back, they’re strong and along with some cool melancholy country hooks and licks, The Chicks stand defiant in the face of political strife and governance untethered from American ideals.

At first listen, this Gaslighter gave me a sense of nostalgia for the music I heard growing up in the rural American Midwest. The tracks that make up this album have a diverse range of energy, so no matter what mood you’re in, you can likely find something to bop to. 

The album opens with the title track and immediately hits you with the kind of satisfying vocal harmony you want to hear in country music. The song is a call-out of a toxic past relationship, hence the title and lyrical implications of adultery and manipulation. The instrumentation in the song is simple and driving, making it clear that the focus is on the vocals.

The drums maintain a constant marching pace with a thumping bass drum under the acoustic and electric guitars. The next track, “Sleep at Night”, feels like a continuation of the sentiments expressed in “Gaslighter”.

The lyricism talks about the aftermath of the toxic relationship, realizing the post-breakup effects, and wondering how this man can sleep comfortably knowing what he’s done. The instrumentation is a bit more complex in this one with strings, a banjo, and a piano among others.

The third song continues with a similar pop-style energy. The first minute of the song has a percussive, palm-muted guitar sound that adds a fun layer of texture. My personal favorite parts of this song are when the intensity builds, the percussion throws in a faster beat and St. Vincent lays down her signature crunchy electric guitar. 

At this point, the album changes to a more mellow, melancholic mood. “Everybody Loves You” is a cover of the Charlotte Lawrence song.  The song’s emotional weight is portrayed through primarily solo vocals backed by an acoustic guitar and accented with a beautiful string section, an occasional vocal harmony, and piano.

The next track, “For Her”, carries a similar emotional weight, but in a more hopeful way. The lyrics are quite generic, which I believe to be intentional to make it more relatable to a wider demographic. This song could serve as a motivational piece to many people. 

My personal favorite song on the album, “March March” is a political statement about the United States today. The lyrics reference controversial topics such as school shootings, gun control, climate change, and shady politics. To accompany the progressive message are a collection of instruments put through some intriguing effects. The steel guitar and strings provide ambient glissandos over a thumpy drum track. Additionally, the interlude of rhythmic clapping adds some tasteful texture.

“My Best Friend’s Weddings” and “Tights On My Boat” return to the awful ex theme. “Best Friend’s Weddings” has a calm energy and lyricism that implies a post-breakup reflection. “Tights On My Boat” is a pretty blatant ‘f*** you’ to this man that hurt her. The song starts out purely acoustic with Natalie Maines and an acoustic guitar until the bass enters and gives the song some prominent richness.

Tracks 9 and 10 from the album reach out to the children in the band’s lives. “Julianna Calm Down” is a dance-y pop song telling the young women around her that things will be difficult, but everything will get better, so it’s important to have confidence. “Young Man” is the moral equivalent, but direct to Natalie Maines’ sons, advising them to learn from their parent’s mistakes and to not let harsh realities hold them down. The vocals are backed by a soothing finger-picked guitar and is tends toward the emotional-heavy.

The two final songs of the album are slow and despondent, continuing her reflection on the breakup. “Hope It’s Something Good” is a bit more energetic, with a chorus that is reminiscent of Kelly Clarkson’s, “Behind These Hazel Eyes”. In both tracks, Natalie sings about how she should have realized the toxicity in her life sooner.

Gaslighter as an album is primarily focused around Natalie Maines’ rough divorce from her ex-husband, which was likely a therapeutic way for her to express such intense feelings. Because of this, I think it would be a great album for anyone who’s experienced a heartbreak, as well as long time fans, and a new generation in search of righteousness and love. There’s a song in this album for each of the stages of grief, and a few others with the dance energy for most people to move and groove, to the sounds of country style pop. 

The Chicks: Natalie Maines and multi-instrumentalist sisters Martie Erwin Maguire and Emily Strayer.

The Chicks’ Gaslighter Tracklist:

1. “Gaslighter”
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”

  • Audio CD: July 17, 2020
  • Original Release Date: July 17, 2020
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Columbia Records Group
  • Run Time: 47 minutes

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