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. 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.