Pressing Concerns: Mo Troper, Mythical Motors, Molly O’Malley, Boyracer

The Last Pressing Concerns of October is upon us! This incredibly spooky, hook-heavy edition looks at the latest full-lengths from pop song machines Mo Troper, Mythical Motors, and Boyracer, as well as a new EP from an up-and-comer, Louisville’s Molly O’Malley.

If you’re looking for more new music, you can browse previous editions of Pressing Concerns or visit the site directory.

Mo Troper – Dilettante

Release date: October 15th
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Power pop
Formats: CD, digital
Pull track: The Expendables Ride Again

Even though it eventually became one of my favorite albums of last decade, Mo Troper’s 2017 record Exposure & Response threw me for a loop at first. That album’s tightly-controlled, polished venom wasn’t how I conceptualized an “underground power pop album” at the time. I suppose I was expecting something more like Dilettante. With his newest record (also known, apparently, as Mo Troper IV), Troper has put together a 28-track, 50-minute marathon of an album that somehow feels like both the record that hews closest to Teenage Fanclub-inspired guitar pop and his most adventurous yet. It’s been quite a ride to get to this point—Troper got his last album, Natural Beauty, in right before everything shut down last February, and spent his months of quarantine making a reverent song-by-song cover album of The Beatles’ Revolver.

Like Mo Troper’s Revolver, Dilettante’s songs are almost entirely played and sung by Troper himself, and it’s a little fuzzier compared to his last couple of proper records (but not in a garage rock way, mind you). Still, Troper is a pop star above everything else, and Dilettante finds his songwriting as sharp as ever. Literally nothing could stop the runaway hooks in blissful rockers like “The Expendables Ride Again”, “Better Than That”, and “Winged Commander”. The music seems to be attempting to rise to the level of the inspiration of Troper’s lyrics on some of these tracks—“Can’t talk about how I feel inside / Without alienating everyone in my life,” he confesses in the love song “Tears on My Dockers”, and “The Perfect Song” is about something perhaps equally important for Troper. Other times, Troper’s penchant for sardonic scene observations surfaces again, but not quite as frequently, and “The Expendables Ride Again”, “All My Friends Are Venmo”, and “Camelot” all seem to greet it all with a bemused shrug more than with a smirk or scowl.

As mentioned earlier, Troper has packed Dilettante full of songs, and the smaller, in-the-cracks tracks have plenty to recommend as well. The falsetto, spare “Sugar and Cream” is breathtaking, as is (for completely different reasons) the disturbingly-spot on Elvis Costello pastiche of “Wet T-Shirt Contest”. To refer to a different 28-track album, there are plenty of “Motor Away”s on Dilettante, but the “Pimple Zoo”s are pretty good too. The acoustic, Andy Partridge-esque “My Canary Was Sure to Run” is another hidden gem almost unfairly tucked away at the penultimate track slot, and it might not even be the best song on the record about a bird. And the much-better-than-its-title-suggests “Armpit” is—you know what? Maybe they’re all hits. (Bandcamp link)

Mythical Motors – A Rare Look Ahead

Release date: October 29th
Record label: Lo-Fi City
Genre: Power pop, lo-fi pop
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Years of June

At about two minutes into “Drag Days”, a jangly album track from Guided by Voices’ 1996 record Under the Bushes Under the Stars, Robert Pollard kicks his voice up an octave to give the song a triumphant, power pop finish. It is, I think, somewhere in the midst of this moment that Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Mythical Motors were born. Mythical Motors bandleader Matt Addison shares Pollard’s penchant for collage-based album art, lo-fi guitar pop, and even choice of collaborators (A Rare Look Ahead was mastered by frequent Pollard producer Todd Tobias)—even if Addison’s exuberant, ageless voice sounds more like Tobin Sprout. A Rare Look Ahead is Mythical Motors’ only record of 2021 so far, and it picks up where their second album of 2020 (October’s Sleepwalking on Main Street) left off, with a chiming title track that continues to carry their torch for lo-fi pop rock.

In true Mythical Motors fashion, A Rare Look Ahead chugs through some psych-tinged, fantastical pop concerns (song titles include “Vivian of the Unseen Sun”, “Carnival Machine Man”, and “That’s Why I Conjured You”), tossing out 4-tracked power chords and vocal melodies at a clip of about two minutes per song. Early on in the album, “Years of June” sports what might be Addison’s finest hook yet, and “Crashing Waves of Fascination” roars to give the song a bit of a full-band bite, but A Rare Look Ahead is surprisingly backloaded. Side two of the record kicks off with the effortless “Fix the Circulation” and the fuzz-rock “The Flower Disappears Without You”, neither of which last much longer than a minute. The composed closing track “The No Name Followers” is as catchy as any of the earlier tracks, but also goes on for three-and-a-half minutes, just to show that Mythical Motors could stretch these songs out if they wanted to. Even with these longer tracks, or acoustic numbers like “Holy Midnight”, A Rare Look Ahead never lets go of its pop convictions. (Bandcamp link)

Molly O’Malley – Goodwill Toy

Release date: October 21st
Record label: Mollywhop Record Shop
Genre: Synthpop, dream pop
Formats: Digital
Pull track: Language!

“It doesn’t take much now to get me going,” Molly O’Malley announces in the chorus of “Princess Mia (Ybsntcht)”, the opening track to her new Goodwill Toy EP. In the song’s dizzying music video, it may or may not be implied that Fabio is the subject of this declaration. Although sonically “Princess Mia” is a little bit of an outlier compared to the rest of Goodwill Toy, it’s a good “you’re in or you’re out” moment as any. Either you’re into O’Malley’s specific blend of synthpop production and reverb-guitar tones, journal entry-evoking lyrics delivered in a wistful voice, and an ambitious presentation that goes far beyond what one might expect for a four-song EP (i.e., every single track has its own music video)—or you’re not very fun, are you?

Although O’Malley clearly is a fan of and incorporates the guitar flourishes of dream pop into her music, her confident, emotional, front-and-center voice ensures that Goodwill Toy won’t be mistaken for sleepy-time music any time soon, and hews closer to emo-tinged indie rock like Death Cab for Cutie or Petal. It’s a voice that sounds equally at home helming an all-out pop banger like “Princess Mia (Ybsntcht)” or a bittersweet, dramatic lyric like closing track “Tangible”. Even on the dreamiest song, the reverb-drenched “You Look So Good”, O’Malley’s voice won’t be denied while delivering the titular line. Other than the strong presence of O’Malley herself, Goodwill Toy hangs together thematically as well: The EP starts with “You know how to paint my cheeks a new shade of pink” among its first lines, and the following two songs offer up “I wanna know what’s going on in your mind / I wanna know what thoughts run wild at night” and “You look so good wearing my future,” respectively. This “liberated feeling of fearlessly falling into another person,” as O’Malley describes it, takes a thoughtful turn inward before Goodwill Toy ends. It’s short, but it’s complete. (Bandcamp link)

Boyracer – Assuaged

Release date: August 6th
Record label: Emotional Response
Genre: Indie pop, pop punk, power pop
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Miserable Ways

Assuaged is Boyracer’s fourteenth full-length record since 1990. Over the band’s thirty years or so of existence, they’ve released music on notable indie pop labels like Slumberland and Sarah, all the while hewing towards the rougher, punkier end of that particular spectrum, and at some point bandleader and sole original member Stewart Anderson relocated from England to central Arizona (no, I had no idea anyone lived there, either). Even though they’re no longer the band that recorded 1994’s More Songs About Frustration and Self-Hate, Assuaged doesn’t feel like “Stewart Anderson solo album”—multi-instrumentalist Matty Green has been with the band for over twenty years and plenty of records’ worth of music, and while vocalist and lead guitarist Christina Riley (of Artsick) has only been in Boyracer for two years and one previous album, her presence on Assuaged is as strongly-felt as anyone else.

The theme to this edition of Pressing Concerns seems to be “musicians tearing through a bunch of pop songs”, and Boyracer certainly bash out Assuage’s fourteen tracks with no small amount of bite. The trio come roaring out of the gate with punk-pop rave-ups “Stuck with You” and “Tommy McNeil”; the bite-sized glam of “Scapegoats and Martyrs” is really only a breather in comparison to the previous two, and then the rollicking “Spoils” picks right up where Boyracer left off.  The musical and songwriting flourishes that make these songs pop out from one another are aplenty, particularly in the second half: the busy, bouncy bass underneath “Bulletproof”, the razor-sharp guitar work on “Drinks with the Girls”, the trumpet in the fuck-this-job anthem “40 Hours”. Boyracer also save some of the biggest successes for late in the album, like the absolutely brutally catchy diss track “Miserable Ways”, sung by Ridley (“You should hate yourself, not everyone else,” she proclaims drolly over one of the record’s many handclap backbeats), and the exuberant duet-chant “1 Am”—there isn’t a dull moment on Assuage. (Bandcamp link)

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