New Playlist: July 2021

We’re back! The latest edition of the Rosy Overdrive monthly playlist covers the songs I enjoyed listening to in July. Plenty of new music here, but also a higher proportion of “archival” selections than the last couple of months—I’ve finished my 1991 deep dive and I’ve moved onto 1996, so there are several selections from 25 years ago within. I’m a little busier than normal at the moment, but I’m still hoping to have a couple of other posts go up in August.

Snakeskin, 2nd Grade, Matthew Milia, and Fountains of Wayne all have two songs on the list this time around. Chisel gets three! Chisel’s first album is very good!

You can hear the entire thing on Spotify here, and be sure to check out previous playlist posts if you’ve enjoyed this one.

“Heart Orb Bone”, Snakeskin
From Heart Orb Bone (2021, State Champion)

The title track to Snakeskin’s Heart Orb Bone EP is an irresistible, unabashed piece of wide-open, grand scale indie rock—it’s the kind of thing New Jersey does very well. The picture disc EP’s three tracks are the band’s first original new music since 2018’s Hangnail, and Snakeskin sound as polished and clear-eyed as ever in their return. Lead singer Shanna Polley injects plenty of drama into the song’s nostalgic lyrics, as if the instrumental’s chopper-takeoff power chords and sparkly melodic guitar leads weren’t enough on their own. When everything clicks together for the going-for-broke chorus, all bets are off. The song’s music video, which is inspired by Warner Herzog and Baby Einstein and heavily features children’s toys, definitely adds something to the entire experience, although I’m not sure exactly what.

“8 A.M. All Day”, Chisel
From 8 A.M. All Day (1996, Gern Blandsten)

This is not The Chisel, the British Oi! punk band that has shown up in these playlists before. This Chisel was the mod-influenced melodic punk band that was fronted by a pre-Pharmacists Ted Leo and lasted for the majority of the 1990s. Despite being a huge Leo fan, I’d never checked out this band before—the roughness of Leo’s first record under his own name, 1999’s tej leo(?) Rx / pharamacists, didn’t really inspire me to find out what he’d been up to before that. But I’ve finally gotten around to it, and 8 A.M. All Day is a really strong album. The title track could, other than Leo’s voice sounding noticeably younger, easily pass for something off of Hearts of Oak or Shake the Sheets—it bursts right out of the gate with its barebones but gripping punk instrumentation and Leo’s insistent bundle of impressive vocal hooks.

“Odoby”, Drinking Boys and Girls Choir
From Marriage License (2021, Damnably)

Daegu City, Korea’s Drinking Boys and Girls Choir are a skate-punk trio that list NOFX and Sum 41 among their musical influences, as well as the social politics of their home country. Their latest record’s title, Marriage License, is a direct reference to a privilege that only heterosexual couples in South Korea are allowed to obtain. “Odoby” is another critique, but a deeply personal one—it’s a reference to a traumatic experience suffered by drummer and singer Myeong-jin (MJ) when she was hit by a taxi while riding a small scooter (an “odoby”) and was subsequently bedridden for months. MJ draws comparisons between the taxi driver attempting to place the blame for the incident on a small, injured woman riding a light scooter and the Korean government and society’s treatment of anyone who doesn’t “fit” into their culture. All of this is hard to grab onto during “Odoby”’s speedy tempo, but the brief snippet of tires squealing midway through the song is a reminder that it’s just not a fun gang-vocals punk track.

“Mirrorball”, The Catenary Wires
From Birling Gap (2021, Shelflife)

Twee lives! Well, sort of. The Catenary Wires’ co-founders, Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey, were most famously part of the line-up of the iconic K/Sarah Records band Heavenly for the group’s run in the 90s—between that band, Talulah Gosh, Marine Research, and most recently Tender Trap, Fletcher and Pursey have been playing together for over thirty years. “Mirrorball”, the lead single and best song from Birling Gap, is a world away from, say, “C Is the Heavenly Option”, but they’ve kept plenty of aspects from their most well-known work intact over the decades. It’s a slick pop rock instrumental with a welcome synth horn (??) hook, and Fletcher and Pursey trade lead vocals to accommodate the lyric about a love story that begins at a disco. “We were far too young then, far too cool,” they sing in tandem, lived experience causing them to appreciate the records being spun in crowded clubs. The accompanying music from The Catenary Wires bears them out.

“Wish You Were Here Tour”, 2nd Grade
From Wish You Were Here Tour Revisited (2021, Double Double Whammy)

I missed Hit to Hit, 2nd Grade’s 2020 breakout album that’s full of short, hooky guitar pop that falls squarely within the Rosy Overdrive purview. I’ll get to it eventually. Right now I’m enjoying Wish You Were Here Tour Revisited, which is a reissued version of 2nd Grade’s 2018 album Wish You Were Here Tour with a few of the songs re-recorded with a full band (the 2018 version of 2nd Grade was essentially just bandleader Peter Gill).  The difference between the new version of the title track and the “demo” version is especially stark—the tender quietness of the latter is now essentially a power pop stomper. It still works, mainly because none of the emotion is lost with the amps turned up. “After so many years swimmin’ around, one of us got flushed down” and the titular line actually seem to pack more of a punch this time around.

“She Cannot Know”, Cub Scout Bowling Pins
From Clang Clang Ho (2021, GBV Inc.)

Although Clang Clang Ho is the first Robert Pollard release to not get the Pressing Concerns treatment and isn’t a lock for the year-end list the way Earth Man Blues is, the record has definitely grown on me. I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t the loose but hook-centric jolt that the first Cub Scout Bowling Pins release, January’s Heaven Beats Iowa EP, was, but there’s something about it that keeps me going back to it in a way that, say, no Cash Rivers and the Sinners album ever has. The largely straightforward-ornamental music provided by the current Guided by Voices lineup combined with some of Pollard’s most bizarre vocal deliveries and lyrics make it one of the most oddly compelling Pollard albums since at least the final Circus Devils record. “She Cannot Know”, hidden midway through Clang Clang Ho’s B-side, has the pretty psych-pop instrumental, but Pollard’s understated delivery separates it from the rest of these songs. Why can’t she know that Pollard has blood and feels pain? Is it “cannot” in the “is not allowed to” sense or the “is not able to” sense? I cannot know.

“Stay Away Still”, My Idea
From That’s My Idea (2021, Hardly Art)

My Idea is a new duo formed by Brooklyn’s Lily Konigsberg and Nate Amos. Both of them have popped up on Rosy Overdrive several times since its inception, Konigsberg through her band Palberta and solo, Amos through his prolific This Is Lorelei project. It’s no surprise, then, that something from their debut EP, That’s My Idea, ended up here. “Stay Away Still”, sung by Konigsberg, is a romp—it’s got This Is Lorelei-esque bouncy power chords and it’s pure pop like the more guitar-based tracks from Konigsberg’s recent collection, The Best of Lily Konigsberg Right Now. The chorus is as unfriendly as the music is welcoming—Konigsberg flatly intoning the title phrase and “leave me alone” over and over again while a different Konigsberg voice sort of argues with herself simultaneously. Some dizzy pop rock!

“Radiation Vibe”, Fountains of Wayne
From Fountains of Wayne (1996, Atlantic)

You want the song of the summer? I will give you the song of the summer: it’s “Radiation Vibe” by Fountains of Wayne, for the 25th year in a row. If I ever get to the March and April 2020 playlists on Rosy Overdrive, there’s a lot of Fountains of Wayne to talk about there—this is the first time I’ve really gone back to them since Adam Schlesinger passed. While I still think Welcome Interstate Managers is their best album, the first half of Fountains of Wayne is absurdly stacked and set the bar high for this band from the get-go. So many Fountains of Wayne hallmarks are established in the first song off of their first record: the girl in a bad relationship (“Did you lose the monkey? He gave you backaches, and now you slouch”), the generically downtrodden American guy (“…Joined a pro team / Talk about a bad dream / I broke a knee”), and of course an all-time sunshine-y chorus with just the right amount of harmony. The random Pittsburgh shout-out is just a bonus.

“Love Song #6”, Upper Wilds
From Venus (2021, Thrill Jockey)

Seven of Venus’ ten songs were released in advance of the full album, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that one of them slipped through the cracks for me. After taking in the excellent Venus as a whole, though, I don’t know how I couldn’t have thought “Love Song #6” was a pivotal song—to me, Upper Wilds bandleader Dan Friel’s simple shout-along refrain of “We know how to be alone now / We know how to be alone now” is as defining a moment as any other on the album. Oh, and also this song is about a married couple who are one of the few surviving adherents to the Heaven’s Gate “UFO cult” and to this day maintain the group’s website (“In the age of posts / You haunt the content of the ghosts”). Read more about Venus here.

“Keeling Curve”, Behavior and Mayako XO
From Free World (2021, Post Present Medium)

I first became aware of Mayako XO (aka Los Angeles’ Sara Gernsbacher) through her 2020 album XO, which came out on the underrated Post Present Medium imprint. Released less than a year later, her collaboration with Behavior (another L.A. band about which I don’t know very much) caught my attention thanks to its casual, low-stakes feeling. Not every song on Free World “hits” to my ears, but Mayako XO and Behavior are clearly onto something as evidenced by the record’s best songs, such as “Keeling Curve”. It starts off with an almost-bluesy garage rock guitar intro before shambling together unhurriedly, and Gernsbacher doesn’t even start singing until over a minute into the track. “Keeling Curve” then morphs into a loose (very loose) pop song, with Gernsbacher turning “God damn it’s water, water / God damn it’s piss” into a legitimate song of the summer candidate.

“Autumn America”, Matthew Milia
From Keego Harbor (2021, Sitcom Universe)

The toe-tapping piano rocker “Autumn America” is the perfectly-deployed mid-record pick-me-up track midway through Matthew Milia’s suburban Detroit concept album Keego Harbor. The present-tense relationship balancing beam depicted in the lyrics would seem to put it in a different vein than the reminiscences that make up the majority of the Frontier Ruckus frontman’s latest solo record, but the second verse threads both together. Milia takes a detour into an imagined future that imagines himself at “thirty-two” absentmindedly “flirting at the bar-and-grill” in his hometown and feeling sorry that the subject of “Autumn America” is nowhere to be found. Read more about Keego Harbor here.

“Animated Songs from a Lonely Planet”, Psychic Flowers
From For the Undertow (2021, Living Lost)

“Animated Songs from a Lonely Planet” is part of For the Undertow’s opening one-two punch and, along with previous-playlist-appearer “Coming to Collect”, helps introduce the record as Psychic Flowers bandleader David Settle’s head-first foray into fuzzy, energetic garage rock, aided by the extra oomph from drummer Leo Suarez. It’s certainly an anthem—the way Settle turns that mouthful of a title to a killer hook in its entirety is remarkable on its own—but it might be a bit of a meta-anthem in its own way. Settle seems to be the one crafting these “animated songs”, perhaps as a way of making sense of the lonely planet: “I need to bring the fight to the damage eraser”. Read more about For the Undertow here.

“Hawks”, Jodi
From Blue Heron (2021, Sooper)

The debut full-length from Jodi, aka ex-Pinegrove guitarist and wading bird appreciator Nick Levine, is a beautifully sparse indie folk record that’s a pretty convincing argument for a songwriter to watch in the genre moving forward. Blue Heron has plenty of moments on its own—although there are certainly shades of Levine’s former band throughout, the deployment of empty space in these songs reminds me a lot more of Songs: Ohia, or even slowcore bands like Idaho or Red House Painters at times. “Hawks” is one of Blue Heron’s more upbeat numbers, the music nearly resembling something of a “strut” over which Levine’s voice (the real star here) delivers a pastoral lyric that sends the song somewhere into “twangier Trace Mountains or Told Slant” territory, or even a less busy version of fellow Windy City songwriter Sonny Falls.

“Egregore”, Hello Whirled
From History Worth Repeating (2021, Sherilyn Fender)

Hidden in the middle of History Worth Repeating, a place where pop songs zip by and dare you to grab onto them before they’re gone, “Egregore” sums up the best of the latest Hello Whirled album in the form of a downer two-minute lo-fi indie rock banger. “Egregore” (Wiktionary is free, folks) is the confluence of History Worth Repeating’s thoughts on mortality, the mundanity of eternity, and suffocating anxiety. It all comes to a head with Hello Whirled leader Ben Spicuzo quipping to a perhaps-imagined spiritual entity that “believing you is not the problem, but it’s a grief to believe in me,” but not before remarking that the titular apparition isn’t the least explainable thing he’s ever encountered. Read more about History Worth Repeating here.

“Good Medicine”, Stevie Weinstein-Foner
From Wondering (2021, Wild Kindness)

Boston-originating folk singer Stevie Weinstein-Foner has described his latest record, Wondering, as a collection of “campfire rock songs”, inspired by his experience and upbringing in labor circles and camping sing-alongs. The understated, sublime album opener “Good Medicine” starts Wondering off by making a strong bid for timelessness on its own. The music around Weinstein-Foner’s acoustic guitar grows thicker and thicker throughout the song—some keyboard accents, Jared Samuel’s busy bassline, and triumphant saxophone courtesy of Blythe Gruda—but Weinstein-Foner is always front and center. “Our souls grow like square watermelon / Deprived of space and cut off from light,” memorably begins his plea for a reprieve from the toil of our lives.

“Systems Crash”, Guided by Voices
From Plantations of Pale Pink (1996, Matador)

The Plantations of Pale Pink EP is, from my understanding, a collection of six songs that were in the running to be included in various versions of the famously belabored Under the Bushes Under the Stars. It’s hard to believe that any of these songs, as unfriendly and distant as they are, were ever thought by Robert Pollard to fit alongside the nearly all-hits that comprise UTBUTS, but the fact that these tracks all hang together well here suggests he might’ve been onto something. I’d never thought much of this release until I read someone make a strong case for it (thanks, The Constant Bleeder), but after giving it some time I’m glad I did. “Systems Crash” is the closest thing to a “hit” on the 12-minute record, with Pollard singing his heart out over 90 seconds and mixing in some vocal echoes that aren’t quite harmonies but aren’t quite discordant either. It reminds me of other classic Guided by Voices EP openers “Matter Eater Lad” and “My Impression Now”, but somehow both sloppier and more deliberate.

“Brick”, Snow Ellet
From Suburban Indie Rock Star (2021, self-released/Wax Bodega)

I’m a little late to the whole “Snow Ellet” deal but I finally got around to the Suburban Indie Rock Star EP and am happy to report that the hype is justified. Although the Oso-Oso-via-Madchester “To Some I’m Genius” or the starry-eyed “Wine on the Carpet” might seem more like “Rosy Overdrive” picks (maybe next month RE: the latter), there’s something about the uneasily melodic “Brick” that keeps me coming back to it. It’s a modern blender pop punk anthem if I’ve ever heard one, all bedroom-recorded and getting as much mileage from frontperson Eric Reyes’ autotune vocals and synths as it does from the laser gun guitar riff that pops up again and again. Reyes has admitted that lyrics are less important to them than vocal melody and instrumental tracks, but the words to self-described “new wave inspired angst” of “Brick” are at the very least fitting to what’s going on around them, and the part where Reyes breaks a window with the titular object as neighbors look on horrified is very “suburban indie rock star” of them.

“Taverns of the Neo Subcortex”, John Vanderslice
From John, I Can’t Believe Civilizations Is Still Going Here in 2021! Congratulations to All of Us. Love DCB (2021, Tiny Telephone)

“I Get a Strange Kind of Pleasure from Just Hanging On” from last month’s playlist might be the poppiest song on John Vanderslice’s latest EP, but “Taverns of the Neo Subcortex” is the song from John, I Can’t Believe Civilizations Is Still Going Here in 2021! Congratulations to All of Us. Love DCB that probably has the most appeal to fans of Vanderslice’s “classic” sound. “Taverns of the Neo Cubcortex” has the digital footprint that marks JV’s post-Dagger Beach output, but it also features Vanderslice harmonizing with himself in a tender way that recalls his 2000s solo records. Vanderslice has described his new EP as “an anti-suicide pact with myself” in addition to being a tribute to his late friend David Berman, and even without this context, this song’s refrain would still hit extremely hard: “Don’t leave a death a nice clean shot / ‘Cause he’s gonna give it all he’s got.” Even more dire is the song’s opening line: “When we met you were at the end of your rope / So I tied the other end around my throat”. As musically adventurous as he’s ever been and refusing to shy away from incredibly tough subjects, John Vanderslice is one of the most vital indie rock musicians to me at the moment.

“Still Flat”, Built to Spill
From The Normal Years (1996, K)

Built to Spill is an easy band to take for granted, and sometimes it takes an uneven listen like The Normal Years to remind me of that. Not that it’s necessarily lacking quality-wise, it just occasionally slips my mind that the BtS that made Perfect from Now On was also the scrappy, crude-humorists that got their start on K Records (“Joyride”’s “I screwed her and she screwed me, but we never once had sex” is up there with “Fling”’s “And it takes me a long time to come…to the memory of us”). But hidden behind lo-fi pop anthems “Joyride” and “Girl” are a handful of forward-pointing, stratosphere-shooting Doug Martsch guitar adventure tracks; “Still Flat” is the best of these. Everything clicks here: the 90s-style bass-heavy verses, the triumphant horn that tries to outdo the distorted guitar on the chorus, an all-time vocal melody from Martsch, the restraint that forces the instrumental to wait until the three-minute mark to really let loose. References to a “Marxist celebration” and the titular line (“No matter how round it feels, it’s still flat”) make it one of the most accidentally-online Built to Spill songs, oddly enough.

“In the Stone”, The Goon Sax
From Mirror II (2021, Matador)

Between The Catenary Wires, Ida later on, and this song, the July playlist has a solid collection of male/female vocal duet songs. Mirror II is the third record from the second-generation indie pop group, their debut for Matador, and their first since 2018’s We’re Not Talking (which garnered a mention in the early days of Rosy Overdrive). Mirror II finds The Goon Sax, which had previously been a relatively straightforward jangle pop concern, delving headfirst into 80s darker post-punk dressings and even synthpop, but the record’s best moments retain the hookiness that’s always permeated their songs. “In the Stone” is part of an excellent one-two punch (along with “Psychic”, which nearly made the cut here), opening the record with wobbily pensive power chords and a fairly dire emotional situation. Timeless gothic wallowing and turmoil gets sliced open by the jarring opening line of the chorus: “Didn’t have to sound so disappointed when I called / If you had ever saved my number in your phone”.

“What About Blighty?”, Chisel
From 8 A.M. All Day (1996, Gern Blandsten)

How to write a perfect sub-two minute pop punk song, by Chisel and Theodore F. Leo:

  1. Exactly thirty seconds of feedback noise to open. No more, no less. It builds tension (and character).
  2. Once you start, grab ahold of the best melody you’ve got and don’t let go.
  3. The titular phrase needs to be something that could mean anything, and it helps if it sounds vaguely British. Has to sound good shouted, a question is a smart bet.
  4. Power chord and chant breakdown exactly one minute in. Don’t overdo it but especially don’t underdo it.
  5. Four words: ascending wordless backing vocals.
  6. Let everything ring out for an extra ten or so seconds at the end. Really, it just comes down to about a minute of actual music, any more’d be overkill.

“Racism Priest”, The Cocker Spaniels
From The Cocker Spaniels Are Still Alive, and So Are You (2021, Evil Island Fortress)

The Cocker Spaniels Are Still Alive, and So Are You is getting a proper release (cassette via Evil Island Fortress) in August after Cocker Spaniels bandleader Sean Padilla self-released it earlier this summer, and the lead single is easily one of the record’s best moments. “Racism Priest” is one of a couple songs on The Cocker Spaniels Are Still Alive that finds Padilla addressing his white acquaintances—in this case, he’s politely declining to take on their white guilt at their past misdeeds or silence (“I’m gonna give it back to you to do what thou wilt”). Although he gets plenty of mileage out of explaining what, exactly, isn’t his obligation, Padilla does relent a bit and give a few suggestions for repentance toward the song’s end: attend some protests, call out bigoted family during holiday get-togethers, re-examine everything in life through new lenses. Also, even though Padilla seemingly has the keyboard set to “church organ” setting, that bass is positively sinful. Read more about The Cocker Spaniels Are Still Alive, and So Are You here.

 “Contradicción”, Las Hiedras
From Contradicciones (2021)

A punk song that comes barreling out of the gate with brass and cowbell—that’s what we like to hear! Las Hiedras are a five-piece Buenos Aires-based “sax punk” band that was a Bandcamp find for me. The sort-of title track to Contradicciones does prominently feature member Christian’s saxophone, particularly in a ripping solo midway through the song, but everyone else’s contributions to “Contradicción” are sharp as a tack, too: the low end from bassist Lau never lets up, the guitar riff is classic 70s punk, and whoever is singing (Lau, Mar, and Maru all have voice credits) does their best to hold the torrent above them together. My Spanish is not very good, but the song’s few lyrics seem to be about wanting more in life than their home city (“Buenos Aires no me alcanza”).

“Little Things”, Ida
From I Know About You (1996, Simple Machines)

The reductive way to frame Ida would be that they’re a poppier Low. They have those male-female vocal harmonies, glacial paces, and notes that just kinda hang there for awhile, but “Little Things” is strummier than anything Low were making around the time, not to mention the cathartic crescendo that the song reaches in its second half. This is maybe useful as a rough description of this song’s sound, but considering how annoyed I get whenever someone describes one of my favorite 90s indie rock bands as “like Pavement, but more [fill in the blank]” I would like to emphasize that they’re a contemporary and it just shook out that that Low is more well-known today than Ida (the fact that they haven’t released any new music since 2008, despite their Facebook page emphatically declaring that they’re “THE BAND THAT’S STILL A BAND”, may have something to do with that). I Know About You is the album I’m most familiar with, and it’s a great place to start if you like the idea of slowcore but can’t tell Ida and Idaho apart (I’ve gotta get an Idaho song on here sometime).

“Survival Car”, Fountains of Wayne
From Fountains of Wayne (1996, Atlantic)

With apologies to the perfectly fine “’92 Subaru”, “Survival Car” is Fountains of Wayne’s real “car song” (also not to be mistaken with their “Cars song”, which is clearly “Stacy’s Mom”). The make and model don’t matter for the purposes of the story—its key feature is “being able to be driven”. The music is perfect, classic propulsive pop-rock, and the moment the surf-rock backing vocals kick in when Chris Collingwood sings “doing like the young folks do in West Coast towns” is a rock and roll nerd’s wet dream. As timeless as it is, it had the misfortune to appear in 1996, just about the only moment in history when Billy Corgan’s “Hello, human resources?” growl of “Wanna go for a ride?” was a more commercially viable prospect than Fountains of Wayne cruising up with “Don’t you wanna ride, ride, ride, ride?”

“Degradation”, Michael Cormier-O’Leary
From More Light!! (2021, Oof/Dear Life)

Michael Cormier-O’Leary isn’t the only member of Friendship to appear on this playlist, but the sound of his latest solo album is a little closer to his other band’s alt-country than Peter Gill as 2nd Grade’s power pop. Be that as it may, “Friendship-esque” is not entirely an accurate descriptor of More Light!! either—more than anything else, it’s in the same ballpark as delicate indie folk like Trace Mountains or Hovvdy, or even the Jodi album that showed up earlier on here. Album opener “Degradation” slowly layers various instruments from the record’s laundry list of collaborators over the initial simple acoustic guitar picking, creating a dreamy vibe for a song about waking up. “I am small and craven when faced with anything,” Cormier-O’Leary sings quietly early on in the song, but “Degradation” eventually pulls free of the mental and physical static of existing—Cormier-O’Leary then resolves to live to 188 years old and finds himself “singing ‘oh, elation’ in the face of degradation”.

“The Bear Song”, Signal Valley
From Good Morning (2021)

I recently went on a camping trip, and I was promised bears in the vicinity, but sadly no bears were to be seen. In that, I can—up to a point—empathize with “The Bear Song” by Signal Valley, an over-the-top pop rock anthem about the lead singer’s insistent desire to be mauled to death by a bear. It begins understandably enough, with Signal Valley head Dan Spicuzo feeling overwhelmed by the world and fantasizing about escaping into the woods, only to take a less romantic and more, ahem, grisly direction from there on. Like “The World of Tomorrow”, the last Signal Valley (then known as Syntax Valley) song covered on Rosy Overdrive, “The Bear Song” is a classic upbeat music/dark lyrics number, but the subtle dread of the former song is replaced with delirious, glorious, petty self-destruction (“All my enemies will have nothing left to mock”). Although they have to mess around with the word order a bit to get everything to fit in the context of a simple pop song, I must give major props to Signal Valley for ending the song with the word “ursine”.

“Hot & Heavy”, Lucy Dacus
From Home Video (2021, Matador)

“Album where singer-songwriter looks back at moments from their childhood and young adulthood with the benefit of their earned sage wisdom and, damn, don’t they make all these vignettes seem so poignant with their musicality” is not a particularly beloved subgenre of record for me, so I suppose it’s a testament to Lucy Dacus that I actually quite enjoyed Home Video. In fact, it’s probably my favorite of her albums—I already like it more than Historian (of which I struggle to remember anything beyond the first two songs) or No Burden (…beyond the first song). Still, the vagueness of “Hot & Heavy” might be why I gravitated towards this one for the playlist over some of the others. It’s apparently about feeling uncomfortable for the first time in her hometown (sort of the opposite of Keego Harbor, I suppose) and it taps into a strong “I don’t belong here” sentiment that works very well here.

“Every Kind of Music But Country”, Robbie Fulks
From Country Love Songs (1996, Bloodshot)

I want to talk about Robbie Fulks again on this blog relatively soon, so I’m not going to dwell too much on this song here. I will say, first of all, that Country Love Songs is a hell of a debut album. It’s alternatively funny and sad, sometimes in the same song, gets a lot of mileage out of the chip on its shoulder, and above all it’s aggressively tuneful: that is to say, it’s everything a country album should be. Even though it came from the famously “insurgent” Bloodshot Records, there’s actually not very much “alt-“ about it, at least on its surface—explain to me how “The Buck Starts Here” incorporates punk rock, I’m waiting. “Every Kind of Music But Country” is pure country fantasy at its cleverest, in which Fulks takes its cliché of a title and turns it into a demonstration of the genre’s power (and of Fulks’ performing acumen, which, as someone who’s seen him live, I can confirm he’s not blowing any hot air there).

“T.V.”, Snakeskin
From Heart Orb Bone (2021, State Champion)

If “Heart Orb Bone”’s widescreen sensibilities and music video hinted at a nostalgic period piece, “T.V.” is all of that on steroids. The song begins by placing us in 1983, and “Ceremony”, Big Star, and “Candy Says” are all namedropped by Snakeskin’s Shanna Polley.  “Don’t turn off the TV / Listen to the white noise leaking,” is a strong of a chorus as “Heart Orb Bone”’s kicking rocks in a parking lot, but the song’s sweeping verses do just as much of the work here. Also like “Heart Orb Bone”, “T.V.” gets a music video—it’s heavily Star Trek inspired, tacks on an extra two minutes of exposition to the song’s length, and, to quote a line from it: “it could be a representation of our entire journey”.

“Stuck in a Spin”, Militarie Gun
From All Roads Lead to the Gun (2021, Alternatives)

Militarie Gun vocalist (and noted Robert Pollard fan) Ian Shelton first came to my attention as the leader of the powerviolence band Regional Justice Center which, as should be obvious, is not generally the kind of music that Rosy Overdrive covers. When I heard that Shelton had another band that allegedly delved more into the RO-friendly indie rock side of his influences, I was intrigued and gave All Roads Lead to the Gun a spin. Although I did choose the song with the most Guided by Voices-esque instrumental in “Stuck in a Spin”, that’s not exactly what’s going on with All Roads Lead to the Gun—it’s more of the incredibly potent “hardcore pop” subgenre that’s the purview of Husker Du and, more recently, Drug Church (whose Nick Cogan is also in Militarie Gun). Shelton wrapping his hardcore growl around some actual legitimate vocal hooks reminds me of Hot Snakes, or maybe if Ben Cook got his Fucked Up bandmate Damian Abraham to sing on a Yung Guv song.

“Sunburnt Landscapers”, Matthew Milia
From Keego Harbor (2021, Sitcom Universe)

Between Fountains of Wayne, Snow Ellet, and these Matthew Milia songs, I’ve really got the “paean to Suburbia” pop songwriting bases covered this month. “Sunburnt Landscapers” is anchored by a lilting country instrumental, with a tasteful amount of harmonica and pedal steel provided by Pete Ballard, setting the table for Milia’s on-the-scene observations: “dumb” vanity plates, tanning salons, McMansions, and “sad corporate climbers” all cross Milia’s mind as he travels to and from seeing a loved one in a hospital bed. “Sunburnt Landscapers” is a peaceful song, even when Milia is crying alone in a diner. Read more about Keego Harbor here.

“Suffer”, New You

The latest one-off single from Massachusetts’ New You is only the fourth track the project has ever released, but it’s already a bit of a stylistic shift. The self-titled debut EP from the band, which actually just one guy named Blake Turner, is fairly straightforward grungy fuzz rock (and also features a song that has the same name as a Rozwell Kid song, and sounds like Rozwell Kid, but is not a cover, which fascinates me). “Suffer” is both sunnier and also a little heavier than any of those songs, diving head-first into reverb and dreamy vocals that evoke shoegaze and, in an acknowledged influence, The Smashing Pumpkins. It reminds me a little bit of another one-man band I’ve covered on Rosy Overdrive, Dazy, and one could even draw a parallel to Velvet Crush’s In the Presence of Greatness, which similarly sits in the sweet spot between power pop and shoegaze.

“San Cristobal de Las Casas”, Swirlies
From They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days in the Glittering World of the Salons (1996, Taang!)

Speaking of shoegaze-influenced rock music, here’s something for one of the heavy hitters of the genre. I’m not a huge Swirlies fan by any means (I know how some people get with them), but I thoroughly enjoyed They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days…. I think it’s more my speed than Blonder Tongue Audio Baton—I’ll have to give that album another shot at some point, but the (relatively) more straightforward Wild Youthful Days… has my attention at the moment. “San Cristobal de Las Casas” starts off with an awesome chugging heavy guitar riff before veering off into dreamy and noise pop territory, although it never loses the rock band fury that kicks off the track. It’s a little more chaotic than the Stereolab-y “Sounds of Sebring” or “Two Girls Kissing”, but all its detours are worth taking.

“Favorite Song”, 2nd Grade
From Wish You Were Here Tour Revisited (2021, Double Double Whammy)

I didn’t get around to talking about the 2nd Grade band in the “Wish You Were Here Tour” entry, so I’ll shout them out here: guitarist Catherine Dwyer and bassist Jack Washburn also play in Remember Sports, who released one of the best albums of 2021, and guitarist Jon Samuels plays in the excellent alt-country band Friendship, as well as bandleader Peter Gill himself (only drummer Will Kennedy was unfamiliar to me beforehand). All of them play a hand in punching up “Favorite Song” from Gill’s guitar-and-vocals original take into shiny pop rock. Like “Wish You Were Here Tour”, “Favorite Song” plays with rock and roll artifacts to express something more personal, here using the conceit of “favorite songs” as a kind of mood ring (sample line: “Up in my room, I hid all June / My favorite song was ‘Sixteen Blue’”). It’s all relatively simple and straightforward, and it works because of how hard Gill sells it: he’s hitting high notes and dropping “uh huh”s and “okay”s to match his band by the end of the track.

“Kickboxer Lightning”, Robert Pollard and His Soft Rock Renegades
From Choreographed Man of War (2001, Fading Captain)

We’ve had a couple playlists of little-to-no Robert Pollard—it was only a matter of time before I had one of my “only Guided by Voices-related albums” listening phases, and this month’s roundup reflects that (next month’s probably will too, honestly). Choreographed Man of War, which turned twenty last month, falls into the category of “Guided by Voices album in all but name”—it’s one of the few solo records that finds Pollard backed by an actual band (bassist Greg Demos and drummer Jim Macpherson), and also one of the few albums where Pollard plays all (or at the very least, most) of the guitar himself. It adds up to a nice, muscular garage rock feel, and album highlight “Kickboxer Lightning” wouldn’t be out of place on Isolation Drills or Universal Truths and Cycles. It’s incredibly poppy, but it doesn’t assault you with it like “Glad Girls” does—there’s no memorable chorus, but the entire song is one long beautiful vocal from Pollard, and the guitar playing is incredibly melodic as well. No, I don’t know what the title means.

“Your Star Is Killing Me”, Chisel
From 8 A.M. All Day (1996, Gern Blandsten)

“Your Star Is Killing Me” isn’t quite as “flooring the gas pedal” as the two previous Chisel songs here, but it still “kicks”. In this case, it’s the stomping verses and the mini-tornados that form and dissipate in the instrumental breaks, but the band shows just a little bit of restraint in order to let the titular line hang in the air for a second. The lyrics seem to be about a parasocial relationship of some kind with a musician or band, beginning with “Here it hits home, even when I’m alone / With you in my headphones,” before the narrator goes on to lament that “You keep me out that much, ‘cause you don’t give me anything to hold on to,” and troublingly concluding that “If I die unfulfilled, I want you to know that it’s your star that’s killing me.”

“Let’s Get Lost”, Elliott Smith
From From a Basement on the Hill  (2004, ANTI-/Domino/Kill Rock Stars)

I almost put “Coast to Coast” here instead. I really love that song and how it opens From a Basement on the Hill, and it makes me all the more sad that we won’t ever hear Elliott Smith go further down that particular sonic avenue. But “Let’s Get Lost” is classic Elliott Smith, and it’s really hard to beat. Honestly, there’s not much to say about “Let’s Get Lost” except that everything that Smith did best is here: the intricate, melodic acoustic guitar that always works to only accent the song, a hauntingly beautiful vocal, and lyrics that made every depressed kid that could play three open chords believe that they, too, would create something transcendent by dressing up their inter- and intrapersonal woes as prettily and poetically as possible (and some of them did!).

“Promise Ring”, Midwife
From Luminol (2021, The Flenser)

Props to Midwife’s Madeline Johnston for putting out two solid records in back-to-back years (three if you count her ambient split album with Amulets, Mark Trecka, and Susan Alcorn). Luminol is yet another showcase for Johnston’s self-described “heaven metal”, and that’s exactly what “Promise Ring” sounds like. The song begins as a minimalist piano track, only featuring spaced-out chords paired with Johnston’s singing-from-another-room reverby vocals, but then begins to ascend in its second half and positively takes off into a propulsive shoegaze-rocker in the final two minutes. Even as the guitars roar and the drums hit, “Promise Ring” retains a “behind glass” feeling, sounding like Johnston and her collaborators are playing somewhere just out of reach (like, oh, I don’t know, the cosmos?).

“NYC – 25”, The Olivia Tremor Control
From Dusk at Cubist Castle (1996, Flydaddy)

And…roll credits. On this playlist, and on Music from the Unrealized Film Script: Dusk at Cubist Castle, which turns twenty-five on the exact day of this writing. I’ve listened to the first and best Olivia Tremor Control album tons of times, but for whatever reason, this song never stuck out to me until my most recent pass-through. Part of me wants to attribute that to just general fatigue after traversing through seventy minutes and ten “Green Typewriters” to get to it, but then that should make one even more receptive to the pure psych-pop of “NYC -25”. The Beatles harmonies that feature in the chorus are one of the greatest details from a record that’s full of great ones, not mention the way the lead vocalist (I don’t know if it’s Hart or Doss, any Elephant Six superfans out there?) shifts ever so slightly from disembodied psychedelic verse vocals to that little sliver of emotion in “Don’t sleep too long, ‘cause everything you need is right here”.

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