Pressing Concerns: Olivia’s World, Ratboys, Dazy, Expert Timing, Squill

Pressing Concerns is back! Today I’m talking about new EPs by Olivia’s World, Dazy, and Expert Timing, the new old Ratboys album, and the latest from Squill. Not much in terms of housekeeping this time around, except to say that there may not be anything new on Rosy Overdrive next week, but several new posts are in development/planning. In the meantime, you can browse older editions of Pressing Concerns for more good music.

Olivia’s World – Tuff 2B Tender

Release date: April 23rd
Record label: Lost Sound Tapes
Genre: Twee pop
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Social Seagull (Ode to Friend)

Alice Rezende started Olivia’s World while living in the Pacific Northwest, recruited Rose Melberg (of Olympia’s Tiger Trap and The Softies, among other bands) to drum on the band’s first release, and has released everything under the name on Seattle’s DIY Lost Sound Tapes cassette label. Everything about the project screams “K Records-influenced twee pop”—right down to the childhood escapism of the band’s name and the amusing spelling choices in the title of their latest EP, Tuff 2B Tender. The second release by the now-Queensland-based band doesn’t just stick to the guileless indie pop that many modern twee-indebted acts hew to, however—Rezende’s songwriting seems to be bursting with big ideas, and Olivia’s World goes big musically to back them up. Now a four-piece, the band paints Tuff 2B Tender with a layered, full-band sound that evokes both the heavier end of 90s Seattle/Olympia indie rock and their stated influence of Exploding in Sound Records. That is, the EP’s five songs can do both “tuff” and “tender”.

Lead single and EP opener “Debutante” features a striking, classically twee vocal from Rezende, but the rest of the band clamors for the listener’s attention as well—by the three-minute mark, the song becomes a wall of sound, featuring cascading guitars from Tina Agic, ringing piano, a tight rhythm section, and full-on vocal harmonies. The band stomps through the majority of “Hell-Bent”, serving as a platform for Rezende’s stream of consciousness, half-sung, half-spoken lyrics. “What’s the point in being kind to a people that are never kind to you?” she asks, in what I assume is a swipe at those who weaponize “politeness” for personal gain—before she repurposes an entire verse of “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” for the bridge. “Hell-Bent” also sports Tuff 2B Tender’s tightest chorus, with the titular line sounding ripped straight from mid-90s Kill Rock Stars. “Social Seagull (Ode to Friend)” is perhaps the sweetest (dare I say—tenderest) moment on the EP, a bouncy pop song about, well, what its title suggests. Tuff 2B Tender ends with the pastoral fantasy of “Grassland”, which, like the band’s name, seeks comfort and strength in discovering and inventing new worlds. “Grassland” contributes to a sense of restlessness from Olivia’s World, a band that has already made several sonic strides and planted flags on two continents over its brief length. Alice Rezende’s journey with Olivia’s World is already an enjoyable one for the listener to follow, and hopefully it is only getting started. (Bandcamp link)

Ratboys – Happy Birthday, Ratboy

Release date: April 1st
Record label: Topshelf
Genre: Post-country flavored indie rock
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital
Pull track: Collected

While Happy Birthday, Ratboy was released as a surprise at the beginning of this month, the songs featured on the record should be familiar to fans of the now-Chicago-based band. The majority of the album is made up re-recorded versions of Ratboys’ earliest-written songs: its first five tracks originally came out on the first-ever Ratboys release, the Bandcamp-exclusive RATBOY EP—the tenth anniversary of which is the occasion for the birthday celebration. The Ratboys of the RATBOY EP were the duo of founding members and Notre Dame students Julia Steiner and Dave Sagan, and the original RATBOY was a scrappy home- and dorm-room-recorded collection of songs that prominently featured Steiner’s ukulele playing. Ten years, two additional members, and three albums later, these tracks have been quite transformed for Happy Birthday, Ratboy. Their translation of folk-rocking opener “The Stanza” to the full four-piece band feels natural and automatic (I’ve definitely seen Ratboys play it live before, which probably helped), while the lazy mood of “Intense Judgment” belies its stealthily complex arrangements. The feedback at the end of “at 39 is annie the oldest cat?” becomes a full-blown post-rock instrumental to end side one—and why not? It works.

The second half of the album, featuring songs written around the same time as RATBOY but which never even got the humble Bandcamp release of the first five, is even more exciting. The sub-two minute “Space Blows” (another one I’m pretty sure I’ve heard them play) is one of the best examples of the band at its full force. “Collected” qualifies as such, too—and it represents a sort of lyrical leveling-up moment for Steiner, who wrote the song for a “Gender and Rock n Roll” course in college. The record ends with one sole “new” song, “Go Outside”, and its breezy country-folk instrumental and sweet, simple lyrics underscore just how deeply weird these old Ratboys songs are. Happy Birthday, Ratboy features all sorts of musical left-turns and plenty of fascinating head-scratchers for lyrics. Whether it’s because these songs originated from a band still congealing as musicians, writers, and collaborators, or because the band playing these songs now is so different from the one that wrote them, or some combination of the two, it’s hard to think of an album that sounds exactly like Happy Birthday, Ratboy. It all amounts to one of the top-two best surprise-release albums featuring reimagined songs from earlier in a band or artist’s career this month. Happy birthday, Ratboys—here’s to ten more. (Bandcamp link)

Dazy – Revolving Door & The Crowded Mind

Release date: January 22nd/April 2nd
Record label: Very Loud
Genre: Power pop, fuzz rock
Formats: Digital
Pull track: Weatherman Got It Wrong / See the Bottom

Dazy is the solo project of Richmond musician James Goodson (also of Teen Death and Bashful). Goodson’s been putting out one-off singles under the name since last year, but in 2021 Dazy seem to have higher ambitions. The three-song, six-minute Revolving Door EP turned up in January, and earlier this month Dazy released its fullest collection of songs yet—The Crowded Mind features eight entire tracks and crosses the 15-minute barrier. The Dazy of these EPs is pretty clearly a one-person operation: Goodson, accompanied by what sounds like a drum machine, lays down short, sweet, revved up power pop songs underneath a healthy amount of distortion. The nature of Dazy’s production and some surface-level sonic similarities might lead one to compare it to the likes of Wavves and other shitgaze/turn of the decade lo-fi pop rock acts. The fuzz never overwhelms the pop hooks, however, and Goodson does appear to be drawing from a wider net of influences with these songs.

In addition to playing in his handful of bands, Goodson also co-hosts a Green Day podcast. I do detect some Billie Joe Armstrong inflection in Dazy’s vocals, particularly in the music’s more measured moments—like the verses to “Revolving Door” and “Crowded Mind (Lemon Lime)”. He’s got that Armstrong-esque lazy-yet emotive style. I also read Jesus and Mary Chain comps when looking these Dazy EPs up, and I hear it, but it’s funny to me for the two big points of comparison to be one band who made their brand looking effortlessly cool to all, and another who have (although this is changing of late) long been unfashionable with the indie crowd. Guess it goes to show how arbitrary the marching of time makes everything! But I will say, tangentially to the JAMC thing, that there is a bit of a garage rock Madchester/Creation Records vibe going on with “Right as Rain”, helped in large part by that aforementioned drum machine. Along with the shotgun ballad “Don’t Leave Me on the Line”, it’s one of the stretch-out moments that The Crowded Mind’s (relatively!) expanded length affords it. These suggest that Dazy is more than just a one-trick pony, although I’m far from bored with the project’s main trick as of press time. (Bandcamp link 1) (Bandcamp link 2)

Expert Timing – Live in Stereo

Release date: April 2nd
Record label: Count Your Lucky Stars
Genre: Pop punk, power pop
Formats: Digital
Pull track: Cement

As they await the chance to play in front of people again, Orlando’s Expert Timing have offered up a live-in-studio EP to helpfully remind us all what live music sounds like. Live in Stereo features four songs recorded at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s Shards Recording Studio in 2019, plus a bonus cover song. As far as stopgap releases go, Live in Stereo is a blast, with the live setting providing a nice showcase for the beefier end of Expert Timing’s self-described “bubble-grunge power pop”. Co-vocalists Jeff (also playing guitar) and Katrina (also playing bass) Snyder switch off so effortlessly you’d almost think they were married or something (turns out they are! Guess the same last name should’ve given that away). Jeff S.’s vocals remind me of another Jeff—Rosenstock, that is—particularly on his biggest showcase, the anxious “Cement”. Katrina and drummer Gibran Colbert’s rhythm section, meanwhile, propel these songs into something even more rock-solid. The band’s power trio setup combined with plenty of hooks reminds me of the poppier moments from Superchunk, and I also found myself thinking of Portland’s Heatmiser (most famous for being Elliott Smith’s pre-fame band) in the fuzzy, pissed-off hooks of “Cement” and the dark “Classic Case of Narcissism”.

Most of the songs are taken from Expert Timing’s sole full-length album, 2018’s Glarethese recordings predate their newest release, last year’s Whichever, Whenever EP, so nothing from that one turns up. The last live cut is the only one from their debut EP, Selective Hearing—but it’s no slouch, as “Sleep” is one of their finest moments as a band. The EP ends with the only song not taken from the Shards sessions: a faithful cover of The Format’s “Wait, Wait, Wait” that, along with Worriers’ version of “Rollercoaster” by Bleachers, will perhaps begin a micro-trend of indie-pop-punk bands covering songs by the members of fun.’s other groups (who would be a good candidate to take on Steel Train?). Although the original versions of these songs might sound a little “cleaner”, the energy of Live in Stereo makes it a good an introduction as any to Expert Timing. (Bandcamp link)

Squill – Moon Sessions (physical release)

Release date: April 30th
Record label: Lost Sound Tapes
Genre: Indie folk
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Little One

Moon Sessions was released digitally via Bandcamp and streaming services late last year, but came to my attention due to an upcoming cassette release through Lost Sound Tapes. Squill (not to be confused with the also-from-Boston Squitch) is the project of Lily Richeson, who was in the Massachusetts punk band Parasol for the first half of the 2010s, moved to Olympia, and now fronts the riot grrl-influenced pop punk band Bad Sleep. Squill, however, explores entirely different territory than either of those groups. Moon Sessions is primarily based around Richeson’s singing, accompanied by acoustic guitar picking or strumming. It’s ostensibly a folk album, and while some of Moon Sessions’ songs don’t feature much more instrumentation than that guitar and vocal setup, the record doesn’t restrict itself. “Her Decline”, for one, is a challenging album opener and the record’s heaviest moment, starting off quietly before thunderous percussion and distortion roar into the mix.

The appropriate Pacific Northwest reference point for when Moon Sessions reaches for the atmospheric might be the elemental folk-noise glow of The Microphones, but regardless of whether the otherworldly is taking center stage or remaining an undercurrent on Moon Sessions, Richeson grounds the album with strong songwriting. Moments like “Her Decline” and the soaring instrumental in the second half of “Blind Whispers” give shading to this lunar song cycle, but the more straightforward acoustic folk songs are the ones I find myself coming back to the most. The steady strumming of “Little One” anchors the song’s unspooling fable, while “All This Moonlight” splits the difference between a lo-fi take on country music and ethereal folk (Chorus: “Oh, you sure look alright / In all this moonlight”) and also features an excellent melodica solo. If you’ve ever been so awestruck by the moon that it’s literally knocked you off of your feet, this album’s for you. (Bandcamp link)

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