For Lee Ranaldo things have changed dramatically since he finished work on his last solo record, Between the Tides and the Times. Recorded in early 2011, it was followed by the sudden end of Ranaldo's regular band Sonic Youth in the autumn and, just a few months after release in 2012, Hurricane Sandy went whirling through New York City, leaving devastation and destruction in its wake. With no electricity, running water and many other 21st century creature comforts, Ranaldo once more picked up an acoustic guitar and, perhaps in an attempt to make sense of his current situation, started writing new music. In seemingly apocalyptic conditions The Last Night on Earth came in to being.

Opening track 'Leece, Leaving' creates a false sense of security. Musically, it's a rather upbeat number. The introduction sounds like a band jamming in a rehearsal space, complete with a vocalised "one, two" counting the band in. The lead guitar has an almost country like twang to it and the tempo pushes things forwards in a way more usually associated with songs of optimism or joy; then you hear the lyrics. "Black hearted clown," Ranaldo sings, "you steal the remains of the day." A disintegrating relationship set amidst the destruction of a comfortable home life, Ranaldo's lyrics paint a scene of domesticity turning to vicious cycles - "I pick you up but every time, it's right back to the fray."

The Last Night on Earth is a dark, brooding album, much of the record deals with the passing of time. Sometimes Randaldo is looking back, though not always with nostalgia, sometimes he's trying to stop the onward march of time, and sometimes he's looking forward, waiting for a change. In many ways the album seems quite personal, far more so than you'd expect for an album written and recorded with a band. But then Ranaldo is at a strange juncture in his life, his main creative outlet is (for all we know) permanently finished whilst NYC, his home, was crippled not just by a storm, but also financial corruption that managed to drag the country into recession.

'Home Chds' is the only track that makes reference to Ranaldo's support of the Occupy protests, opening with the line "every time I wait for the revolution to come." This optimism is soon replaced with a more pessimistic mood as the revolution doesn't arrive and Ranaldo begins to wonder if he is perhaps the one blocking progress. The chorus, a collection of hurried questions and imperative statements, moves the song into more antagonistic territory urging an undefined second person (the listener perhaps) to "spit it out, spit out what you've got to say." Despite this though, optimism eventually wins through. "We're gonna shake the tree and see if there's a better way," Ranaldo states, making clear that his faith in a brighter future has not dwindled despite set backs.

It's possible that The Last Night on Earth is an act of catharsis. Musically it can be quite restrained, whilst at others it's as wild and chaotic as anything Sonic Youth has ever produced. The track 'Ambulancer', possibly the record's stand-out moment, seems to be constantly on the verge of bursting under the weight wailing guitar, before giving way to a rather pretty acoustic guitar riff. It's fitting for a song that deals with someone watching a friend struggling to hold on to life. The tension within the song lyrically and musically feeling as though at any moment things could go either way. Randaldo handles the subject matter in such a beautiful, tragic way that it's arguably the best song he's ever written. The line "I'm calling you to come back, don't you say goodbye," is a particularly heart-breaking moment. So many emotions are conveyed in that single line; optimism, faith, despair, love, the list goes on.

It's worth remembering that the majority of this album was recorded with a full band, as introspection and deeply personal nature of the songs along with the mixing of the album focuses our attention on Ranaldo's lyrics and his guitar, almost as if he were performing alone. The Dust comprises Steve Shelley (also of Sonic Youth) on drums, Alan Licht on guitar and Tim Lüntzel on bass. For the most part the band embraces a fairly rootsy, alt-rock sound, but in the moments when they let loose it's definitely in the area of Sonic Youth's trademark noise; these tonal switches often happen within songs. Closing track 'Blackt Out' is a great example of this. It starts with a heavy blues-rock riff that gets louder and more intense as the song progresses, only occasionally subsiding to 90s indie rock chord and then bursting into no-wave eruptions of noise.

Throughout the 12 minutes running time of 'Blackt Out' (and even the 65 minutes of The Last Night on Earth), Ranaldo and his band follow this loose pattern switching between structure and chaos. Set alongside the lyrics' battles between despair and optimism, it's interesting to note that the chaotic passages, rather than reflecting brutality and negativity, provide the outlet required to escape the dark. The Last Night on Earth manages to end in a weirdly upbeat way. Amidst the destruction, the pain and corruption, there's humanity and a sense of freedom that comes with knowing that no matter who you are, you're not facing this life alone.