Pressing Concerns: Chime School, EEP, Gold Dust, Galactic Static

The November era of Pressing Concerns has begun! Today we’re looking at two records that come out this Friday—the debut from San Francisco’s Chime School, and the sophomore album from El Paso’s EEP—as well as two October highlights from Gold Dust and Galactic Static.

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

Chime School – Chime School

Release date: November 5th
Record label: Slumberland
Genre: Jangle pop
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital
Pull track: Dead Saturdays

Chime School, the solo project of San Francisco’s Andy Pastalaniec, is certainly aptly named—the chiming sounds of classic jangle rock are all over his self-titled debut record. Chime School is also further evidence of the fertile jangle pop soil that has taken hold in the San Francisco Bay area, and of Slumberland Records’ recent attempt to shine a light on it (which it has also done with The Umbrellas and The Reds, Pinks, and Purples). Pastalaniec’s first record evokes the delicate balance of nostalgia and bittersweet emotions in which the best of the genre trades, but it does so while keeping its foot almost entirely on the gas. Pastalaniec, who’d mostly been notable as a drummer up until this point, gives most of Chime School a driving tempo that puts it much closer to the “peppy” than “melancholic” end of the jangle pop spectrum. Even the slower tracks on Chime School still feel upbeat, like the mid-tempo opener “Wait Your Turn”, or the early R.E.M.-chime of “Gone Too Fast”.

After “Wait Your Turn”, really Chime School takes off by tearing through toe-tapping, jangly pop anthems—brisk guitar arpeggios and drumbeats in “Taking Time to Tell You” and “Dead Saturdays” are counterbalanced by Pastalaniec’s melodies, while mid-record songs like “Anywhere But Here” and “Radical Leisure” are pulled along by the bass guitar as much as anything else. Another great vocal melody, the one in “Get a Bike”, ends up being outshone (out-chimed?) by an exuberant opening guitar riff. In “Get a Bike”, Pastalaniec instructs the listener to “ride a motorbike out in the country, if you want to understand”, while also referencing “1960s cars” and a “little Honda”. The transportation motif seems important—it isn’t the only song on the record with a motorcycle allusion in the title, and with how zippy Chime School is, I doubt it’s unintentional.  I don’t think that one necessarily needs to call in sick, drive out to the country, and feel the wind in one’s hair in order to “get” Chime School, though—these songs can take you there on their own. (Bandcamp link)

EEP – Winter Skin

Release date: November 5th
Record label: Hogar
Genre: Shoegaze, dream pop
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital
Pull track: A Message to You

Rosie Varela had been playing in cover bands since the early 90s and witnessed firsthand the initial wave of shoegaze acts like My Bloody Valentine, Lush, and Slowdive, but her decision to combine two of her passions came much later, and unintentionally. One song recorded with friends in 2018 quickly became EEP, a five-person band that, in addition to Varela, features El Paso music scene veterans Sebastian Estrada, Serge Carrasco, Lawrence Brown III, and Ross Ingram (who released an excellent solo album earlier this year). Their debut album Death of a Very Good Machine came out last July, and EEP (whose name comes from a mutated version of the Folk Implosion’s E.Z.L.A. that also incorporates their hometown of El Paso) are back less than a year and a half later with Winter Skin. Although Varela sings the majority of the songs, Winter Skin feels like the work of collaborators working together in lockstep. EEP have never fully come off as a dogmatic shoegaze band, and Winter Skin sees the band reach further out in several directions.

That isn’t to say that Winter Skin’s not a shoegaze record, and the album’s first three songs—the urgent “Hanging on a Wire”, the driving “No Inbetween”, and the heavy pure pop of “A Message to You”—are all robust, reverb-heavy rockers that can go toe-to-toe with any recent nü shoegaze revival LP. Winter Skin is only just getting started, however. The title of “Stubblefield” is a nod to James Brown’s drummer Clyde Stubblefield, and the song is based around a classic funk drum riff, something I can’t think of any other shoegaze band even somewhat approximating. In addition, EEP bust out the psychedelia of “Today I Woke Up” and the dream pop “Ángeles”, the latter of which is entirely sung in Spanish and is inspired by “traditional Mexican love ballads”. “Stargazer” and “Slow Down” (the latter of which, apparently, grew out of a version of the former) are electronic-influenced songs that seem the most strongly influenced by Ingram’s solo career and production background (he owns Brainville, the El Paso recording studio in which Winter Skin was recorded). The latter song’s ambient pop lullaby benediction in particular would not have been out of place on Ingram’s Sell the Tape Machine. Even when they’re a world away from the shoegaze of the first couple of tracks, however, nothing is out of place on Winter Skin. (Bandcamp link)

Gold Dust – Gold Dust

Release date: October 15th
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Folk rock
Formats: Cassette, CD, digital
Pull track: Oh Well

Easthampton, Massachusetts’ Stephen Pierce first became known to me through his work in Kindling, the underrated western-Mass shoegaze band who appeared in one of Rosy Overdrive’s first ever posts. The solo moniker Gold Dust is Pierce’s first step out on his own, and it finds him embracing a warm folk rock sound. After the dreamy instrumental intro “Water Street, 2am”, “Oh Well” exemplifies Gold Dust’s Neil Young-ish hybridization of folk songs and rock band instrumentation, marrying lazy acoustic guitar picking and strumming and a beautiful vocal melody from Pierce with a meandering, soaring electric guitar solo in the song’s second half. The fuzziness from Pierce’s other recorded output still guests frequently, particularly in songs like “All’s Well That Ends” and “Brookside Cemetery Blues”, which earn the Crazy Horse comparison that Gold Dust’s Bandcamp page cites, but the distortion even colors around the edges of the quieter songs, in a way that reminds me of the Torment & Glory album from earlier this year.

In a way, these heavier moments give an extra sense of clarity to when the light shines through on Gold Dust. “The Shortest Path” is a nice, sincerely subtle song about people finding ways back to each other, while the seemingly straightforward “Cat Song” asks a question that I’ve more or less asked myself before (“Can I really be that bad if the cat follows me around?”) in the service of a resolution-spurred-by feline ending that’d make John K. Samson proud. While “Cat Song” is perhaps the clearest example of Pierce’s songwriting acumen, his passion for classic 60s and 70s folk is all over Gold Dust if one cares to look. Buried beneath a swirling instrumental, “Anywhereing” features some excellent nomadic lyrics from Pierce. “These are songs you thought you’d never sing”, he remarks in a song about isolation and a lack of fulfillment. “But I’m still thinking there’s a chance for me to finally get it right,” he affirms at the end of “Anywhereing”, a thread that hangs in the air until the end of album closer “Small Song”: “If you sing that song ‘til you believe it, pretty sure you’re okay. You’re okay”. (Bandcamp link)

Galactic Static – Friendly Universe

Release date: October 22nd
Record label: Corrupted TV
Genre: Lo-fi power pop, indie punk
Formats: CD, digital
Pull track: Fresh Cut & Bessie

Galactic Static is an “intergalactic friendship-core” band that hails from “the edge of the universe”. Or maybe they’re a couple of guys from Brooklyn who are committed to unabashed, hooky lo-fi power pop.  Whoever or whatever they are, they bring tidings of a “Friendly Universe”, which to them seems to mean garbled but catchy positive guitar pop that reminds me of bands like Ohio’s Connections or even Mythical Motors. It wouldn’t surprise me too much if Galactic Static are extraterrestrials, as Friendly Universe definitely feels a bit off at times. “Friendship Rd.” is perhaps the record’s upbeat theme music, attempting to beam out a message of camaraderie through bouncy pop punk, until a Mark Linkous-esque self-sabotaging interruption grinds the song to a halt (then it starts right back up again).

Album opener “Dark Night of the Soul” is, befitting the title, dark and urgent-sounding, an intriguing red herring of a beginner track. Even the most complete power pop tune on Friendly Universe, “Fresh Cut & Bessie”, has something of a non-sequitur right there in the title. Still, there must’ve been some warm blood involved in a record that contains a mid-tempo Zippo lighter-holder like “Choose Your Own Adventure”. And the big finish closing track, “Time Enough (Don’t Let’s Give Up)”, burns through chunky power chords, basement-scale “Baba O’Riley” grandeur, and one last rally-around-the-flag effort for over five minutes, declaring not to give up even when “the world’s just not enough”. When you have a Friendly Universe, maybe you don’t need just one silly planet. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

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