Pressing Concerns: Zinskē, Jon the Movie, Stomatopod, Red Pants

Oh, hello there. How are you today? Sorry to hear that. Perhaps these albums can take your mind off of that. Today, Pressing Concerns looks at new records from Zinskē, Jon the Movie, Stomatopod, and Red Pants.

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

Zinskē – Murder Mart

Release date: February 14th
Record label: Self-released
Genre: 90s indie rock
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: TV Guide to the Spirit World

Philadelphia’s something of an indie rock epicenter these days—thanks in part to the massive success of festival-ready bands like The War on Drugs and Japanese Breakfast, but, frankly, more due to the continued efforts of bands that will never be as big as those two. Bands like Zinskē. Not to suggest this four-piece group is unpolished; in their own way, they’re just as sleek and put-together. In terms of fellow Philly bands, they remind me the most of the controlled, austere post-punk of Dark Blue, although Zinskē skew more 90s than 80s. Everything’s tight and in its right place on Murder Mart, their debut full-length record. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Chris Lipczynski’s vocals mark the record above anything else—low, dry, and stoic, they’re the perfect match for both the band’s sharp dullness and lyrics that have too many shadows dancing underneath them to be truly “opaque” as they might seem at first.

Lipczynski stays at his personal sea level often enough in Murder Mart to shift his vocal Overton Window—when he raises his voice just a little bit in “Ortolan Sung”, it comes off as basically howling. “Ortolan Sung” also has a lightly dire lead guitar intro courtesy of Kevin O’Halloran—just one of Zinskē’s soft touches throughout Murder Mart. Emily Cahill’s prominent and frequently melodic basslines, another weapon, rear up in “Keno” and “Honeycreeper” among others, the former a woozy dance and the latter pure uneasy tension. The bass also helps Murder Mart’s closing track drift off lazily—a song, by the way, that’s called “TV Guide to the Spirit World”, which flips through cultural detritus in a manner worthy of the record’s car-crash-level of eye-catching album cover. Lipczynski and the band perform this balancing act of being a subtle band that yet always sounds animated by something—even in the lyrics (hell, whole songs) on Murder Mart that I can’t quite parse. This is what “fun music” means, to me. (Bandcamp link)

Jon the Movie – A Glimpse That Made Sense

Release date: January 5th
Record label: New Morality Zine/Cauldron of Burgers
Genre: Lo-fi indie rock/punk
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Soul Tied to a Stranger

Long Island, New York’s Jon Gusman is a musician and visual artist who’s been playing in bands (notably the vocalist for hardcore group Rule Them All) for a while now—recently, he’s stepped out on his own as Jon the Movie, a project that debuted at the beginning of the year with A Glimpse That Made Sense. Jon the Movie falls nicely into the category of “dude with hardcore background making more melodic alt-rock”—Gusman cites Fugazi, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Guided by Voices, and I’ll be damned if the first five songs on A Glimpse That Made Sense don’t sound like the exact center of that triangle.  The record kicks off with the hard-hitting “Coffin Position”, a pretty solidly MacKaye-esque punk anthem with Jimmy Chamberlain-style attention-grabbing drums, and then veers into the subtler melodic fuzz-pop of “I Can’t Help”.

“Soul Tied to a Stranger”, which sounds like it was recorded on a fucking walkie talkie, is also A Glimpse That Made Sense’s catchiest moment, and, needless to say, its most Robert Pollard-like one as well. 90s indie/alternative rock isn’t the only place from which Gusman is pulling, however—just as strongly, prog rock is built into these songs as well. This is most obvious in closing track “Quest for Materiality”, a ten-minute scorcher that’s explicitly inspired by Gusman’s love for Dream Theater as a teenager among other things, but I also hear it in “Miracles Until the End”—in the way that Gusman takes a core that, like “Coffin Position”, falls somewhere on the Dischord spectrum, and blows it up to grandiose proportions. It’s an inspiring synthesis. (Bandcamp link)

Stomatopod – Competing with Hindsight

Release date: January 29th
Record label: Pirate Alley
Genre: Punk rock, alt-rock, garage rock
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Like the Breeze

Like A Glimpse That Made Sense, Competing with Hindsight is a six-song, 25 minute “short album” that is at least partially 90s indie rock-inspired. That’s about where the similarities end, however—where Jon the Movie covers their Fugazi and Guided by Voices impressions in a layer of fuzz, Stomatopod hew towards a Steve Albini-at-Electrical Audio-recorded clear presentation. Not that the Chicago trio (vocalist/guitarist John Huston, vocalist/bassist Sharon Maloy, drummer Elliot Dicks) don’t get noisy, but Competing with Hindsight’s resting state is one of three musicians presenting their ideas pretty much unadorned, like the similarly-minded Silkworm (I heard of Stomatopod recently due to them playing a show with Tim Midyett’s current band, Mint Mile).

Stomatopod (the name means mantis shrimp, by the way) are fairly explicitly pulling from about every decade in rock music history. Pretty much all of Competing with Hindsight’s songs have that dark undercurrent that marks so many prominent grunge groups (as well as the genre’s forefathers, Wipers), Huston’s clean everyman vocals are very 90s Matador indie rock, and the ever-present earnest guitar rave-ups that characterize the record catch the spirit of garage and hard rock, even if they’re not quite as sloppy as the former nor showy as the latter. It’s such a consistent record that I have a hard time singling out tracks: the first three songs all bash out post-post-punk bliss that’s up there with the best moments of bands like Hot Snakes and The Men, and then they “get weird” (one song is a little more jittery than the rest, and then one song’s a little slower) before bringing it all back for a closing track that nails the best parts of their sound all over again. (Bandcamp link)

Red Pants – When We Were Dancing

Release date: February 18th
Record label: Paisley Shirt
Genre: Shoegaze, lo-fi indie rock, noise pop
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Lost Momentum

Madison, Wisconsin’s Red Pants is the project of songwriter, guitarist, singer, and cassette label owner Jason Lambeth plus drummer/vocalist Elsa Nekola—together, they make rock music that sounds both like the product of your local neighborhood indie garage band and yet eternally just out of reach. When We Were Dancing is a brief record, around 23 minutes long, and it doesn’t waste any time establishing its core elements: Lambeth and Nekola’s vocal harmonies, and an overall dreamy atmosphere that reminds me of Galaxie 500, Bedhead, or Yo La Tengo, particularly in the slow-building, rise-and-fall songs like “In the Passing Time” and “Humming”.

In addition to those rocky slowcore-indebted tracks, When We Were Dancing also features upbeat, noisy pop (the “bah-bahs” in “All Your Pink Stars”, the lo-fi punk of “Another Haircut”), loud basement shoegaze (the towering “Broken Movies” and the driving “Glue”), and shimmering ballads (that would be “Here I Am”). Lambeth and Nekola’s distant vocals often sound like they’re going to be swallowed up by the reverby, almost-droning music surrounding them, but as far away as they can sound, one can always make them out. It feels like a winter pop album. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

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