The undeniable force that is Kathleen Hanna struck again earlier this month after her latest band, The Julie Ruin, released its second album titled Hit Reset. As an artist Hanna is used to touching on heavy, political subjects, her main target being the patriarchy, but on Hit Reset she brings the pain home with her–literally. As the house on the front cover would indicate, the new album delves into pain Hanna experienced in childhood. This pain is particularly present in the opening verse of the album’s title track, where lyrics such as “slept with the lights on on the floor/Behind a chair that blocked the door” paint a picture of a life filled with anxiety and paranoia. On “I Decide” Hanna addresses a source of her abuse, singing “you may be a thorn I witnessed/a pain I just need to coexist with/but I’ll decide.” In these lines Hanna embraces her freedom to choose how she will emotionally digest her traumas and allow it to affect her. She accepts the things she cannot change and asserts control over what she can. Moments like these bring an uplifting tone to the album’s heavier content, showing that there is another side to suffering–one of rebirth, redemption, triumph, and healing.
With just a cursory listen, the pain of Hit Reset is barely noticeable. The album is an easy listen with its danceable synth flavor and 60’s girl group style backing vocals—perfect for spastically dancing alone in your room when you have the desire move but don’t care enough to be particularly graceful. Its eclectic influences and moods give the album a distinctive sound and even conflict at times to great effect. In the chorus of “Roses More Than Water,” for instance, Hanna half-sings in her deliberately off tune style against the “aahs” of a celestial backing vocal. Another personal favorite that deserves a shout out is the penultimate track “Time is Up,” which has serious New Age/Blondie vibes.
While some songs balance punk aggression with pop cheer there are some that fall decisively under a certain mood such as the unapologetically raucous “Be Nice,” and the emotional closer “Cavelton.” The different musical influences make the beginning of the album especially interesting, as each song adds dynamism to its general musical identity. But while the album’s weaknesses are few and far between, its lowest point comes around “Record Breaker,” where the songs blur together and the wave of musical revelations momentarily subsides. Shortly thereafter, however, with the opener of “I’m Done,” which sounds like Donald Duck in space (in a good way), things get interesting again, and the album ends sounding as fresh as it did in the beginning.