Pressing Concerns: Big Nothing, tat songs, Downward, Fjord Mustang

This week’s Pressing Concerns highlights new albums from Big Nothing, tat songs, and Fjord Mustang, and an upcoming EP from Downward. If you’re looking for more new music, you can browse previous editions of Pressing Concerns or visit the site directory.

Big Nothing – Dog Hours

Release date: February 18th
Record label: Lame-O
Genre: 90s alt-rock, punk rock
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: A Lot of Finding Out

Dog Hours is only Big Nothing’s second record together, but the members of the Philadelphia four-piece have put their time in with various Philly bands for a few years now. That is to say, they’ve earned their “indie punk band goes mellow alt-rock” moment. The ten tracks of Dog Hours evoke a very specific period of beginning-of-the-90s “college rock”—the biggest comparison that keeps floating in my mind is late-period Replacements and early Paul Westerberg solo material, but they’ve also got Boston bands like The Lemonheads and Buffalo Tom rolling through their sound as well. There’s a weariness coloring Dog Hours, especially (but not entirely) in the songs sung by guitarist Matt Quinn, one of the band’s two lead vocalists.

Big Nothing might have dialed back the punk energy a bit, but they haven’t left out the hooks in doing so. Dog Hours is a strong guitar pop record—just listen to lead single “A Lot of Finding Out”, which is two minutes of basically all chorus, or the jangly Gin Blossoms earnestness of “Don’t Tell Me”. These are fairly unadorned, timeless-sounding songs—when bassist/vocalist Liz Parsons sings about driving around late at night listening to The Glow Pt. 2, it’s one of the few moments that places Dog Hours…well, not exactly in the present, but at least a few years after their main sonic touchstones.  That line is from ruefully mid-tempo “Still Sorta Healing”; Parsons also leads on the acoustic toe-tapper “Accents”, arguably the record’s most upbeat moment. Dog Hours ends with “What I Wanna Say”, one of Big Nothing’s more alt-country numbers—both in terms of the lightly swinging shuffle of the music and in Quinn’s lyrics, which make messiness and uncertainty sound simple and breezy. (Bandcamp link)

tat songs – Don’t Look Back

Release date: February 22nd
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Lo-fi indie rock, post-punk
Formats: Digital
Pull track: Knocked Down

Tom Sadler has apparently been making music in some form since 1993, but the Chicago-based artist been especially busy since 2017, when he ended a “decade long hiatus to pursue academia” and returned to recording. The Bandcamp page for his tat songs project features albums ranging from harsh electronic to ambient to experimental folk, but Don’t Look Back is a pretty straightforward indie rock record. The album’s eight songs are a familiar but welcome blend of Pavement/Silver Jews-style grounded vocals, simple guitar pop melodies reminiscent of the Flying Nun roster, and the repetition (in both the rhythms and vocals) of post-punk.

The choppy lead guitar intro and Sadler’s stoic delivery make opening track “Fond Memories” the most overtly post-punk track on Don’t Look Back, but, tellingly, it’s not a world away from the mellow guitar pop that follows with “Knocked Down”, “Something Something”, and “Sadie 1942”. This is a fertile groove for tat songs, with most of Don’t Look Back hovering between an opaque exterior and brief bursts of emotion that coincide with the songs’ most melodic moments. The revved-up “Dishonor” is something of a late-record surprise in its Dinosaur Jr. fuzzy alt-rock getup—although Sadler does sound a little more like J. Mascis in the vocals here, the song mostly just helps emphasize that Sadler has been employing a Mascis-esque country-punk delivery the whole time. Sadler is a sharp songwriter—there’s plenty worth returning to in Don’t Look Back’s unassuming thirty minutes.

Downward – The Brass Tax

Release date: February 25th
Record label: New Morality Zine
Genre: Shoegaze, alt-rock
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: The Brass Tax

This is the third week of 2022 that Pressing Concerns has selected something from New Morality Zine to cover—they’re having an excellent beginning of the year, no? The latest EP from Downward sounds more like Prize Horse’s heavy 90s alt-rock than Jon the Movie’s lo-fi prog-punk, but The Brass Tax doesn’t restrain itself to the former sound. The Oklahoma band don’t come off as fervent devotees to downcast post-grunge—on The Brass Tax, at least, Downward feel like probers. Opening track “Glasshouse” is a big old slab of moody, glacial space rock, sure, and a great version of it, but they don’t really go down this avenue again for the rest of the EP.

It’s The Brass Tax’s second track, single “Real Green Dollars”, that’s probably the most emblematic of the whole thing. Downward shift fully into “atmospheric” mode on that one, layering acoustic guitar, electronics, and what sounds like some kind of horn atop their power trio setup. The EP’s final two tracks delve even further into subtle territory—the drum-machine, synths, and vocal effects of “Line” make it the starkest moment on The Brass Tax, but it’s the slow-building melodies and slow-burn instrumental of the closing title track that stand as the greatest synthesis of everything Downward explores on the EP. Downward aren’t exactly following the linear A to B “loud rock band slows down and mellows out” trajectory—the doomy “Ugly Bug” actually pushes them into even heavier territory—but they are spreading out with The Brass Tax. (Bandcamp link)

Fjord Mustang – Solitaire

Release date: February 22nd
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Indie rock, folk rock, dream pop
Formats: Digital
Pull track: Five Years

While Toronto’s Fjord Mustang may take inspiration from modern groups that encompass both indie rock and folk rock, the sound on their debut record skews more toward the “indie rock” end of that spectrum. Vocalist Vick Egan’s emotive vocal style isn’t unlike that of Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker, but the songs of Solitaire frequently take on a dreamy, jangly sheen that’s more reminiscent of older bands on 4AD’s roster. Fjord Mustang (hell of a name, that) is a new group, younger than the pandemic—at the time of Solitaire’s recording, they didn’t have a full-time drummer, with Ian Romano (brother of Daniel) remotely laying down what you hear on the recording.

Now a four-piece, with Cameron Macdonald joining Solitaire’s core trio of Egan, Devon Pelley, and Nate Smofsky, Fjord Mustang have a solid and confident first step forward on their hands. The slow-burning dream pop of mid-tempo opening track “Five Years” is just the right amount of intriguing, before sliding into the pure airy indie pop of “Health Class Field Trip”. Just when Solitaire starts to lull you, there’s the surprisingly dramatic alt-rock “Thread the Needle” jutting out of the center of the record, chased with the sparse acoustic “Lakes Inn”—you get the full Fjord Mustang range in six and a half minutes with those. The record doesn’t drop off in its second half, either, thanks to the bittersweet hooky indie rock of “Fortune” and the five-minute stretch of “Ribbons” which gives “Thread the Needle” a run for its money. Not every album in this style grabs me, but the charms of Solitaire are undeniable. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: