New Playlist: September 2021

The Rosy Overdrive monthly playlist is back! It’s the September edition this time! This one is very good, in my opinion! You will find plenty of new music here, as well as a few discoveries from my 1996 deep dive, and a couple of miscellaneous tracks.

Artists with multiple tracks this time around: Telethon (4), Erin McKeown (2), Blunt Bangs (2), The Posies (2), Susanna Hoffs (2).

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

“Everyone Rise”, The Bevis Frond
From Little Eden (2021, Fire)

It’s not exactly simple being a casual Bevis Frond fan, but I’m managing as best I can. Last time we checked in on them, back in May, I was pulling highlights from their 1991 two-hour magnum opus New River Head. The band’s newest record, Little Eden, is a “mere” 82 minutes, and while it doesn’t quite match Nick Saloman and crew’s peak, there’s plenty to like contained within. Opening track “Everyone Rise” is an instant keeper; two and a half minutes of effortless, almost lazy lead guitar-driven pop that also boasts a classic wistful Saloman vocal melody. Perhaps you need to be a little hardcore to dive into Little Eden’s twenty songs, but “Everyone Rise” couldn’t be any more inviting of a way to kick the record off.

“Cupido Stupido”, Erin McKeown
From Kiss Off Kiss (2021, TVP)

I am not naming any names. I would never want to blow up anyone’s spot, per se. All I’m saying is that some of you may be in need of Kiss Off Kiss, and all it does for break-up music. Twenty years and eleven albums into her career, Erin McKeown has made what might be the sharpest record in her catalog so far. The Virginia-based songwriter (and current touring member of The Mountain Goats) unloads a lot of classic-punk-pop-soundtracked grievances throughout Kiss Off Kiss, and “Cupido Stupido” is as catchy (plenty of “da da da dah”s) as it is aggrieved at its own narrator (“How could someone so smart be so suddenly stupid / To think somehow I would reinvent Cupid?”). Things can only go up from here, right?

“Malden, MA”, Kitner
From Shake the Spins (2021, Relief Map)

I’ve been sitting with Kitner’s Shake the Spins for a while now, and it’s really grown on me. One song that I’ve loved from the get-go, however, is “Malden, MA”. Although it’s not exactly a “departure” from the rest of the record’s Get Up Kids/Bright Eyes triangulation and works very well in the context of the album, the primary touchstones for the ripping “Malden, MA” are Dinosaur Jr. (local heroes for the Boston band, and if the guitar solo isn’t quite J. Mascis-level, it serves the track well) and The Hold Steady (that geographical title, the bar-band harmonica, and the fact that “I’m starving but I’m not an artist / They say Pollock was too drunk to paint and that I’m too drunk to stand up straight” could go up against plenty of great Craig Finn lyrics). Read more about Shake the Spins here.

“Detroit Basketball”, Bad Bad Hats
From Walkman (2021, Don Giovanni)

Bad Bad Hats’ debut album, 2015’s Psychic Reader, is one of the big “always better than I remember it being” records for me. Sure, it’s one of countless indie pop rock albums that were coming out around the time, but it’s done very well, and nearly every song on it is quite catchy. Anyway, I lost track of them for a while (I remember 2018’s Lightning Round not grabbing me, although I may not have given it much of a shot), but their third album coming out on the excellent Don Giovanni label got my attention, and, well: it’s good, too. Although “Milky Way” is the most purely catchy song on Walkman, it’s the slightly more subtle bounce of “Detroit Basketball” that stands out the most to me. Credit to vocalist Kerry Alexander for nailing the delivery of “Gotta find a man who deserves my kissing / And doesn’t blow my money on the Detroit Pistons”.

“She’s Gone”, Blunt Bangs
From Proper Smoker (2021, Ernest Jenning Record Co.)

Blunt Bangs is an Athens, Georgia trio made up of Reggie Youngblood (Black Kids), Christian “Smokey” DeRoeck (Woods, Little Gold), and Cash Carter (Tracy Shedd, Little Gold). Proper Smoker, however, doesn’t end up sounding much like early Woods’ freak folk or Black Kids’ post-punk revival; this much is clear from the moment opening track “She’s Gone” busts out its descending-chord structure, melodic guitar solos, and breezy vocal harmonies. “Don’t ask me anything about her, ‘cause she’s gone,” begins Youngblood’s lyrics, kicking off a classically Teenage Fanclub-esque bittersweet power pop anthem. Read more about Proper Smoker here.

“Daily Mutilation”, The Posies
From Amazing Disgrace (1996, DGC)

In 1996, a West Coast power pop/alternative rock band prepped a noticeably darker follow-up to their breakthrough record a couple years earlier for 90s rock kingpin DGC Records. I am, of course, talking about Weezer’s Pinkerton, but this all more or less applies to Bellingham, Washington’s The Posies as well. Except for the fact that Amazing Disgrace is, you know, very good, and doesn’t come with any Rivers Cuomo-sized baggage. Something was in the water of the songwriting duo of Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow (revered in power pop circles, unknown elsewhere); this much was apparent merely from the title of “Daily Mutilation”, the record’s opening track. “A daily mutilation and a bludgeoning review,” is how the song’s chorus elaborates on the title. It’s fuzzy and angry, but it’s never “Seattle grunge”, much closer to a bitter Matthew Sweet than a tuneful Mudhoney.

“Positively Clark Street”, Telethon feat. Gary Louris
From Swim Out Past the Breakers (2021, Take This to Heart)

Telethon’s Swim Out Past the Breakers is anything but starved for memorable, triumphant pop songs, but “Positively Clark Street” might be the best of the bunch. Gary Louris of The Jayhawks assists the song on backing vocals, and The Hold Steady’s Franz Nicolay is on the harmonica, and both feel right at home on this track. Lyrically, it’s a “One Great City!”-esque tribute to lead singer Kevin Tully’s adopted hometown of Chicago, and musically it’s as much a tribute to The Weakerthans as it is to 90s alt-rock behemoths like Counting Crows and (naturally) Everclear. “It’s easy to play crank when you’re not the one having fun,” reminds Tully to local residents grumbling about blocked-off streets, beer gardens, and “blue-jay flocks” of people. Read more about Swim Out Past the Breakers here.

“Dance of Gurus”, Guided by Voices
From It’s Not Them. It Couldn’t Be Them. It Is Them! (2021, GBV, Inc.)

No notes on the album rollout for It’s Not Them. It Couldn’t Be Them. It Is Them!. As solid as the “new lineup” era of Guided by Voices has been, it seemed like Bob Pollard and crew weren’t always picking the best advance singles for all those albums. That’s not the case with INT.ICBT.IIT!; I’ve already talked about “My (Limited) Engagement”, and neither of that song’s two follow-ups have been a dip in quality. The only reason I’m not talking about second single “High in the Rain” is because “Dance of Gurus” topped it mere weeks later, and I probably need to save some space for album tracks. “Gurus” is smart and punchy, a lot more calculated than “My (Limited) Engagement”, despite the fact that it’s also quite psychedelic. Of course, it’s hard not to think of “Dance of Gurus” as a bit of a mindfuck after seeing the song’s music video, which might be the most appropriately Guided by Voices music video in a long time.

“Cowboy Dan”, Cashmere Washington
From The Shape of Things to Come (2021, Fish People Birds/Black Ram)

One of my favorite new discoveries over the last month has been Cashmere Washington, the Midland, Michigan solo project of Thomas Dunn II. Their debut EP, The Shape of Things to Come, is a promise-brimming mix of lo-fi indie rock, emo, and R&B, and the record’s lead single, “Cowboy Dan” is an instant attention-grabber. It’s one of the most straightforward “rock” songs on the EP, featuring fuzzy guitars that cascade over Dunn’s passionate vocals and a prominent bassline that fills in the song’s gaps. “Cowboy Dan” is apparently Dunn’s next door neighbor, who seems like a bit of a character—an odd, constant unflappable presence in Dunn’s life that contrasts with their own personal crises that the rest of the EP explores more fully. Read more about The Shape of Things to Come here.

“All I Want”, Susanna Hoffs
From Susanna Hoffs (1996, London)

The 1996 self-titled Susanna Hoffs album is quite good. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, given the amount of good music she’s been involved with over the years, as well as the record’s eye-popping list of personnel and songwriters (Jon Brion! Jason Falkner! Mark Linkous! Linda Perry!). “All I Want” is a Lightning Seeds cover from their 1990 debut album, which Hoffs and crew transform from an end-of-the-decade synth/Britpop tune into a crisp folk-pop rocker. As that long list of backing musicians might suggest, “All I Want” gets a bit busy in its second half, but thankfully Hoffs’ voice never loses control of the song (which is, presumably, one of the greatest benefits to having the voice of Susanna Hoffs).

“Loud Cliches”, Dirty Shrines
From Digital Ego (2021, Black Numbers)

Fort Collins, Colorado’s Dirty Shrines are comprised of a few punk veterans: Tim Browne (vocals/guitar) and Brian Van Proyen (guitar/vocals) are from Elway, Drew Johnson (bass/vocals) was in Chumped, and all three of them played in Your Loss. Now with drummer Max Barcelow, Dirty Shrines combines a crowd-pleasing punk/alt-rock sensibility with some heady topics with Digital Ego, in a similar way to a couple of bands I’ve written about on Rosy Overdrive, Nora Marks and Man Random. Dirty Shrines take a little bit more from classic rock than either of those bands, though, and “Loud Cliches” is where they most proudly fly their Thin Lizzy flag. Dueling lead guitars and an infectious stomp lead off Browne’s quasi-apocalyptic lyrics: instead of “Whiskey in the Jar”, we get “amphetamine and moonshine”, and we’ll “dance right through the end times” instead of “Dancing in the Moonlight”. Hey, it is called “Loud Cliches”!

“White Horses”, Low
From HEY WHAT (2021, Sub Pop)

This’ll be the third month in which something from HEY WHAT graces these playlists—suffice it to say, the full record delivered on the promise that “Days Like These” and “More” hinted at (if any songs that sound like that can even be considered to “hint” at anything). Like those two songs, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker reclaim the center of the music after being scrambled thoroughly in 2018’s Double Negative, but the aural corruption aided by producer BJ Burton is right there with them. Sparhawk and Parker begin the song intertwined as usual, accompanied by a sharp but minimal electronic beat, and it’s not until halfway through the five minute song that everything begins to distort and corrode. But when it does, the chaos flows and ebbs until the final minute, where nothing is left of the track but a ticking timer.

“Travelator”, Telethon feat. Future Teens
From Swim Out Past the Breakers (2021, Take This to Heart)

The synth-positive “Travelator” is one of the most electric moments on Swim Out Past the Breakers. The song comes barreling out of the gate with breakneck pop punk speed and the aforementioned synth scribbling, and Kevin Tully is at his most earnestly urgent by the time we’ve reached the chorus. A “travelator” is, apparently, a British term for those moving walkways that one sees at the airport or train station or subway station. Here it’s a metaphor (and a good one at that) about the steady stream of anxiety and dread that no amount of Viewtiful Joe can totally shut up. Oh, and also there’s a part of the song that describes détente with a spider, which more songs should discuss. Daniel Radin and Amy Hoffman of Future Teens sing the final chorus of this song. I’m not really familiar with their band, but they do a good job! Read more about Swim Out Past the Breakers here.

“The Stone and I and Everybody”, Maxshh
From Bonus Flowers (2021, Exploding in Sound)

Max Goldstein has certainly been on a tear this year. Bonus Flowers is the third record this year to be released under the name of his solo project, Maxshh, after January’s Feedback & PB and April’s As a Treat. Goldstein hooked up with Exploding in Sound Records for Bonus Flowers, and the album finds the somewhat unclassifiable singer-songwriter-drummer embracing an acoustic-based stoner-psych-folk sound. Album opener “The Stone and I and Everybody” starts out as such, with Goldstein picking and strumming his way through, uh, memorable lyrics about a “pleased” cabbage and a glass of water on top of a stone. Unlike a lot of the rest of the LP, however, Goldstein steers the song into noisy alt-rock territory in its second half that reminds me that, ah, yes, he’s also the drummer for “spastic heavy jazz experimental” band Fred Cracklin.

“Through to You”, Motorists
From Surrounded (2021, We Are Time/Bobo Integral/Debt Offensive)

Apparently Toronto is the place to go if you want to play in or find rock bands that split the difference between post-punk and jangle pop. Obviously, Kiwi Jr. has been somewhat of a breakout star over the past two years, but there’s also the new Ducks Ltd. album, and now Motorists are here to tastefully strum and thrum their way into your hearts. Surrounded is their first album, but the members have played in a few notable bands like Tough Age and the reunited Simply Saucer, so they’ve been around a bit. Although they can do the garage-y post-punk motorik thing well (see the album’s title track), “Through to You” is pure pop; the chorus is bursting with power pop enthusiasm, while the intro and (especially) outro brim with Peter Buck energy. In one line of the song, Motorists nod to both Sloan and R.E.M. (“Automatic for the people of the sky”) and make this almost too easy.

“Go Along / Get Along”, Erin McKeown
From Kiss Off Kiss (2021, TVP)

Like “Cupido Stupido” from earlier in the playlist, “Go Along / Get Along” is an infectious, shiny pop song about, um, “relationship unpleasantness”. Unlike that song’s pissed-off self-criticism, however, “Go Along / Get Along” is about something that’s frankly even darker: resignation. Erin McKeown follows up the titular line by muttering “Get this over quick, so I can get out from under you,” and she means in the most literal sense possible. The most emotional McKeown gets in “Go Along / Get Along” is in the bridge, where she reflects on just how she ended up in this situation: “In your eyes, I could see something…Used to turn something on / But now it’s gone”. The song ends with McKeown quietly resolving to “change the sheets”, “freshen up”, and “move on”, but we clearly aren’t there just yet.

“The Ballad of the Surfin’ Cowboy”, Nora Marks
From Opt Out (2021, Take a Hike)

“Talking with my friends up in the sky, convincing them I’m not that kind of guy,” is how singer Michael Garrity introduces the best song on his band Nora Marks’ debut-full length. Although Opt Out is nominally a punk rock record, it makes its deepest impression with mid-tempo, alt-rock sing-along belters, including “I Think You Earned It”, “Nice to Me”, and this one. Like much of the album, “The Ballad of the Surfin’ Cowboy” seems to deal with Garrity attempting to write about the march of technology and communication, but in a weirdly indirect way, which results in some enjoyably surreal lyrics. I could spend awhile trying to parse the rest of “The Ballad of the Surfin’ Cowboy” in relation to the rest of Opt Out, sure, but the reason I come back to it is because everyone in the band injects “Intend to never stop / Raging bull, China shop” with a real sense of shout-along catharsis. Read more about Opt Out here.

“Sun Self”, DoomFolk StarterKit
(2021, Like You Mean It)

DoomFolk StarterKit is Portland, Oregon’s David Swick, who has been steadily releasing music in some form under the name since 2017. 2021 has seen a couple of one-off singles on Like You Mean It Records (the Gillian Welch cover “Look at Miss Ohio” and the original “Old Times”), and in the time between “Sun Self” reached me and the publication of this post, Swick released the instrumental SunFaded album. “Sun Self” is a fluttery, breezy indie folk track that expands into a full-band song with the assist of Lou Turner (flute/harmonies) and Trevor Nikrant (guitar) of Styrofoam Winos, as well as drummer Allie Cuva. Turner’s flute, in particular, helps nudge “Sun Self” towards Elephant Six/Sparklehorse/Flotation Toy Warning territory in the song’s second half.

“Brooklyn Central Booking”, Alex Orange Drink
From Everything Is Broken Maybe That’s Ok (2021)

Everything Is Broken Maybe That’s OK is an almost journal-like account of Alex Zarou Levine’s (most notable for his time with The So So Glos) struggle with his lifelong genetic disorder homocystinuria, among other turbulent aspects of his life, past and present. “Brooklyn Central Booking” starts the record right in the thick of it:  with Levine, picked up by the cops for “drinking”, “smoking”, and “public urination”, hallucinating after the police confiscate the necessary medication for his disorder, and wondering if this is the future for him and his home (“Another noise complaint and we’ll be through”). All this is delivered over an appropriately simple folk-punk instrumental that’s remarkably catchy. Read more about Everything Is Broken Maybe That’s Ok here.

“Rope Bridge Crossing”, John Parish & PJ Harvey
From Dance Hall at Louse Point (1996, Island)

Dance Hall at Louse Point is pretty good, if not an essential entry in Polly Jean Harvey’s discography. Some forgettable moments, some intriguing ideas, and a couple unqualified successes, the greatest of which is pretty easily “Rope Bridge Crossing”. Her frequent collaborator and musical partner for this record, John Parish (who produced a very good John Murry album which came out earlier this year), offers up a dusty, loping scuzzy blues-rock instrumental that Harvey lets play out for around two minutes before she starts contributing vocals. “Rope Bridge Crossing” winds and sways like the bridge to which its title alludes, and Harvey similarly swings between whisper-talk-singing and some of the record’s most theatrical moments.

“The Billy”, Flower Crown
From Heat (2021, Crafted Sounds)

Heat, the third record from Pittsburgh dream pop quintet Flower Crown, is a charmingly psychedelic album that benefits greatly from the backbone its expansive lineup provides it. Along with the almost-making-the-playlist “Only Life”, “The Billy” is one of Heat’s best pure pop rock moments. The record’s lead single, it immediately hits the listener with a casually catchy guitar pop chord progression and quickly evolves into a spacier version of the classic C86 jangle pop that clearly has made an impact on Flower Crown’s music. Read more about Heat here.

“Queens”, Aeon Station
From Observatory (2021, Sub Pop)

So, you folks hear about this Wrens thing? I won’t recount it, because if you care about it you already know about it, but as somebody who’s had plenty of deep personal moments soundtracked by The Meadowlands, the existence of Aeon Station and “Queens” is very surreal. The debut single from Kevin Whelan’s post-Wrens not-band solo project sounds like something that could’ve been on the probably-never-happening fourth Wrens album, even if I don’t think it’s one of the tracks originally intended for such (based on lyrical content alone). That is to say, it sounds like a more layered version of something from The Meadowlands, although thankfully it’s not too layered (although this does make me anxious that infamously fussy Charles Bissell’s Wrens songs, if we ever hear them, might go too far overboard). I didn’t really need to hear “Queens” to be excited for Aeon Station’s debut, and it’s really hard to hear the song objectively, but I can pretty confidently say this: it’s good, and I hope the rest of the record is as good as it. Read more about Observatory here.

“Tragic Head”, Daniel Romano
From Cobra Poems (2021, You’ve Changed)

Come to think of it, it doesn’t appear that I’ve touched on Daniel Romano for Rosy Overdrive yet.  If the blog had been more active last year, I almost certainly would’ve: there was plenty to like among the singer-songwriter’s eleven (correct me if I’m miscounting) releases from 2020. This year, comparatively, has “merely” featured a live album, one Bandcamp-only digital album, and one “normal” studio record. “Tragic Head” is the opening track to the latter of the three, and it’s an instant highlight among Romano’s classic 70s country-rock-influenced material. The build and release at the beginning of the chorus justifies “Tragic Head” on its own, but surely you want to stay for a few lines just to hear Romano growl “Somebody oughta put a bag over your tragic head”.

“Hedonism (Just Because You Feel Good)”, Skunk Anise
From Stoosh (1996, One Little Independent)

Apparently Skunk Anise were/are something of a big deal, but I never heard of them until I started going deep into 1996. It seems like they didn’t really make it out of Europe, so I apologize if this is old news on Britain or the continent. Anyway, the band’s second and biggest album, Stoosh was kind of being sold to me as “political hard rock!!”, and it starts out as a ho-hum version of this, but Skunk Anise really caught my attention when they deviated a bit from it. “Hedonism (Just Because You Feel Good)” comes right after the slow, dreamy, six-minute “Infidelity (Only You)”, and while it continues to run away from the muscle of the album’s first couple of tracks, it does so by embracing hooks. Musically, “Hedonism” is some amalgamation of cornily sincere post-grunge balladry, airy dream pop, and straight-up slick 90s mainstream pop. It seems to be the band’s most popular song, and while I certainly don’t know enough about Skunk Anise to say if it’s their best one, it’s worth of its notoriety.

“Tom Ford”, Blunt Bangs
From Proper Smoker (2021, Ernest Jenning Record Co.)

Although I haven’t seen anywhere that lists who wrote and who sings which songs on Proper Smoker, I’m pretty sure that “She’s Gone” from earlier is Reggie Youngblood’s, and “Tom Ford” is Christian “Smokey” DeRoeck. Hidden away in the middle of the record’s second side, “Tom Ford” takes full advantage of DeRoeck’s roots rock background for a hearty, energetic vocal delivery, and the urgent organ that rears its head in the chorus helps put the song over the top. In a world where Superchunk and Teenage Fanclub became household names, “Tom Ford” is a surefire top-of-the-charts success. Read more about Proper Smoker here.

“Cyan” & “Worm Dirt”, Telethon
From Swim Out Past the Breakers (2021, Take This to Heart)

These two songs go together because A) they’re both really short and B) they’re back to back on Swim Out Past the Breakers, so who am I to mess with excellent sequencing? Actually, I just realized that all four songs from Telethon’s latest album that I selected for this playlist are all back-to-back on the album, so I’ve already messed with excellent sequencing! What a stretch, though. “Cyan” is the longer of these two at over 90 seconds, and it starts with a ska-dabbling guitar intro before an email exchange ignites some spiraling by Kevin Tully, aided by Devon Kay & The Solutions, a band I don’t know but are probably good because basically everybody who’s on Swim Out Past the Breakers is. I also love the Cyan/sighin’ swap-out thing.

“Worm Dirt” begins with Tully(?) remarking “that song’s so short, let me just do it again”, before beginning a song that clocks in at a nice, even 52 seconds. The band refer to this one as “a little ditty about God and religion and the afterlife”, and it certainly does seem like Tully is participating in a confession of some sort here (“I apologized that I didn’t buy it / I wish I could, but I got a little sick of trying” is more than a little relatable), and the extended semi-truck metaphor is also fascinating to me. Et cetera, and something stupid about the dust in the wind.

And then they go into “Travelator” on the record! Wow!

Read more about Swim Out Past the Breakers here.

“Fast Canoe”, Polvo
From Exploded Drawing (1996, Touch and Go)

Today’s Active Lifestyles seems to be the Polvo album that gets the most shine these days, and I get it. It’s the explosive, attention-grabbing noisy math rock single LP that continues to not be adequately recognized for its influence on guitar music to this day. But I recently got into Exploded Drawing, and to me, that one feels like Polvo’s biggest statement. It’s a full hour of ambitious but streamlined, expansive but utilitarian, anti-personality-led indie rock greatness. If you consider yourself a fan of 90s indie rock bands but haven’t gotten to this album yet, I highly recommend it. I can’t get into it too much here, but album opener “Fast Canoe” should let you know immediately if this is for you or not. The nearly seven-minute track spends its first two minutes just building up to the “main” riff and Ash Bowie’s vocals, but it doesn’t “build” from there so much as ebb and flow, alternatingly lapsing and reconstructing itself, even throwing in a few seconds of post-hardcore aggression in as the song draws to a close.

“Dawn Bends”, Mac McCaughan
From The Sound of Yourself (2021, Merge)

Speaking of 1990s Chapel Hill indie rock: hey, Mac McCaughan made a solo album last month! The Sound of Yourself feels like a low-key but sturdy affair from the Superchunk frontman and Merge Records co-owner, in which dreamy instrumental tracks sit alongside New Order-esque synthpop experiments and more “classic” McCaughan-sounding faire. Lead single and penultimate track “Dawn Bends” is firmly in the “vintage solo McCaughan” camp; it could’ve easily been on Non-Believers or a later-career Portastatic record and fit well. As with anyone who’s been making music for three decades and been particularly generous with it, it’s easy to take a steady stream of “good Mac McCaughan songs” for granted, so I would like to remind everyone that Mac’s still got it, and that he’s capable both of songs like these and of envelope-pushers (look up “The Sound of Yourself” and “I Hear a Radio” if the idea of post-punk McCaughan intrigues you) in 2021 is worth celebrating.

“The Coronation”, Sleepyhead
From Communist Love Songs (1996, Homestead)

So, who were/are Sleepyhead, one of my latest 1996 discoveries? Well, they were a New York indie pop/rock band that reminds me a bit of the noise pop that D.C.’s TeenBeat Records frequently put out around this time. They released three records in the 90s on legendary indie labels Slumberland and Homestead Records. They never formally broke up, relocated to Boston, and released a record in 2014—and apparently are working on its follow-up as of last year. “The Coronation” is the third song on 1996’s Communist Love Songs (which was re-released in 2018 as part of the Future Exhibit Goes Here compilation), and it sounds like guitarist Chris O’Rourke is the lead vocalist here, with drummer Rachel McNally (they’re a married couple) backing him up. Musically, “The Coronation” swaggers, with O’Rourke and McNally’s low-key vocals laying in wait before nailing the emotional climax: “I swear I’m never, ever, going back to Hoboken!”

“Electric Sickness”, Alexalone
From ALEXALONEWORLD (2021, Polyvinyl)

Alexalone is the project of Alex Peterson, who one could describe as a “player” in the Austin, Texas scene: they’ve been in the touring lineups of both Hovvdy and Lomelda, two bands you probably know of if you read Rosy Overdrive. Their Bandcamp page characterizes their music as “soft songs played loud”, and the opening track from their debut full-length fits this description well. “Electric Sickness” is a reverby, light-shoegaze instrumental that’s guided by Peterson’s quiet, subtly melodic voice and a couple noise-rock rave-ups. Although Alexalone started (unsurprisingly) as a solo project, ALEXALONEWORLD is apparently the work of a four-piece band also featuring Sam Jordan, Mari Rubio, and Andrew Hulett, making “Electric Sickness” sound much bigger than a one-person basement recording.

“Please Return It”, The Posies
From Amazing Disgrace (1996, DGC)

“Please Return It” is about as flawlessly executed a Posies song as there could be. It’s dark but catchy, it’s emotional but it’s also surgical, it’s “very 90s” but not dated. It’s got the Jon Auer/Ken Stringfellow harmonies running through almost the entire song, and it’s also got some showy power pop guitar tones hovering over the distortion. Supposedly there’s a saxophone somewhere in “Please Return It”, but one really has to strain to even hear something resembling it. I don’t know if the Posies conquering the airwaves was ever in the cards, but it would’ve been nice if DGC could’ve gotten “Please Return It” over the finish line (much stranger things have happened).

“Beekeeper’s Blues”, Susanna Hoffs
From Susanna Hoffs (1996, London)

Two Susanna Hoffs songs! And it was almost three, too (look up “Enormous Wings”, which is a Hoffs-Mark Linkous co-write)! The opening track to Susanna Hoffs, “Beekeeper’s Blues”, was co-written by Hoffs and a couple of ringers: David Baerwald, who has a host of impressive credits, and David Kitay, who I know nothing about. The song exemplifies that kind of bubbly folk-pop-rock that Susanna Hoffs to which suddenly took an interest, to the benefit of her music (Did I mention that Baerwald was involved in Sheryl Crow’s Tuesday Night Music Club?). The addressee of “Beekeeper’s Blues” just seems like no good, but no amount of lyrical dissing (“I know you know that you’re good-looking / And you’re not known for too much else”) can prevent from Hoffs’ boots from “walking back” to them: “What else can I do?”

“Friends”, Rainwater
From In-Between (2021, Furious Hooves)

In-Between, the latest record from Seattle’s Rainwater, is a dew-dampened mix of delicate dream pop, lights-in-the-distance new wave/synthpop, and rustic indie folk. “Friends” falls squarely into the camp of the latter of the three, with its leisurely trot of a tempo and sparse, swaying instrumentation. Rainwater leader Blake Luley’s gentle voice is aided by harmonies contributed by his wife, Aviva Stampfer, as he sings a sweet but thoughtful lyric about relying on others while struggling with mental illness and grief. “Same mixed up brain, in need of a friend who embraces your pain,” Luley murmurs, while also wondering if what he’s feeling is a “phase” or something greater. “They’re growing in their own way, and I’m growing in mine,” he concludes of those around him at the end of “Friends”; as well as “I hope we can grow together over time”.

“No Big Crime”, Torment & Glory
From We Left a Note with an Apology (2021, Sargent House)

We Left a Note with an Apology is a “heavy folk” album—Brian Cook, the person behind the project, is most famous for his work in metal groups such as Botch and Sumac, but Torment & Glory unearths gorgeous acoustic songs underneath a wall of fuzz. Despite the grandiosity that the feedback skyline affords the record, lead single “No Big Crime” is about small successes and quiet moments. The song is effectively an ode to shoplifting cigarettes, and how it might be in the past tense for Cook but he sees no issue with the action. “No grand gestures now, just petty victories,” is how he summarizes learning how to stealthily sneak a pack. Read more about We Left a Note with an Apology here.

“Waltz Across Debris”, Chainsaw Kittens
From Chainsaw Kittens (1996, Scratchie)

Almost last, but certainly not almost least, a brief mid-tempo piano-rocker from Norman, Oklahoma’s Chainsaw Kittens. I will probably look at the Chainsaw Kittens in greater detail at some point in Rosy Overdrive’s future, but here’s the deal: they were a glam/alt-rock act led by Tyson Meade, who’s one of those frontmen who get spoken reverently in small circles and counted Kurt Cobain and Billy Corgan among his fans. Chainsaw Kittens, the band’s fourth album, came out on Scratchie Records, a mid-90s curiosity of a label that was co-founded by (among others) James Iha, D’arcy Wretzky, and Adam Schlesinger. “Waltz Across Debris” is certainly not one of the band’s louder numbers—to use an R.E.M. comparison, it’s more “Electrolite” than “The Wake-Up Bomb”. In fact, the similarities between “Debris” and the former R.E.M. song—and, for whoever cares to write the essay, Meade and Michael Stipe—are actually rather remarkable.

“Zion’s Blood”, The Upsetters
From Super Ape (1996, Upsetter)

I am not a hypocrite, although I suppose that Rosy Overdrive might be. I do think it’s hack for a website dedicated to writing about music to ignore the output of a living artist only to swing hard for them after they die, and it’s right to call bigger publications out for this. However, Rosy Overdrive is a one-person operation that has been around for less than a year, and furthermore, I consider it a personal log to some extent (I know, shocking, right). This is to say that I listened to a lot of revered Lee “Scratch” Perry material after his death last month, and I enjoyed my time doing so. I’m not an expert on dub or reggae by any means, but I liked Super Ape, so if Perry’s body of work is intimidating, maybe just start there. Or here, I guess, with its hypnotic opening track. It’s music for anybody.

One thought on “New Playlist: September 2021

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