Pressing Concerns: Feeble Little Horse, Star Party, Massage, Premium Rat

The second Rosy Overdrive post of the week, following Monday’s February overview/playlist, looks at two reissues out this Friday: Feeble Little Horse’s Modern Tourism (on cassette, with bonus tracks) and Massage’s Oh Boy (on vinyl), as well as new records from Star Party and Premium Rat.

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

Feeble Little Horse – Modern Tourism (Reissue)

Release date: March 11th
Record label: Crafted Sounds
Genre: Shoegaze, noise pop
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Modern Tourism

I probably heard more good music from Pittsburgh in 2021 than I did in every other year combined, thanks to (among others) records by Gaadge, Barlow, and the first full-length album from Feeble Little Horse, last October’s Hayday. Some of that was either directly or indirectly due to the Pittsburgh-based Crafted Sounds, who are also responsible for reissuing Feeble Little Horse’s only other release thus far, their debut EP Modern Tourism. Although the EP (which originally came out last May) is less than a year old, Feeble Little Horse is already a markedly different band: it was recorded before bassist/vocalist Lydia Slocum joined the band (although she contributed by designing the record’s cover art).

Even accounting for the lack of Slocum’s voice, Modern Tourism is still a ways off from Hayday’s frantic, chaotic noise pop. It’s more casual, with Sebastian Kinsler and Ryan Walchonski’s uncertain voices giving it the vibe of Found Music, stuff that just kind of appears on the Internet (especially in their 50-second cover of “I Am Smoking Cigarettes Again”, originally by similar-minded project Adrenaline, Etc.). The two opening tracks are both ramshackle, rough-around-the-edges lo-fi pop rock songs that are probably the most immediate ones on the EP, but the title track’s slowcore-infused restraint might be my personal favorite moment.

Crafted Sounds’ reissue also comes with another five songs’ worth of bonus material, and it’s a solid addendum/appendix to Modern Tourism: the aforementioned Gaadge is featured prominently, covering and being covered by Feeble Little Horse (FLH’s trip-hop/acid-test version of “Murphy’s Law” is a highlight), we get a downer pop version of “When You Sleep” by My Bloody Valentine, and the one Feeble Little Horse original in the mix (“18 Kids”) is a curiosity that doesn’t sound like anything else they’ve done so far. (Bandcamp link)

Star Party – Meadow Flower

Release date: March 11th
Record label: Feel It/Tough Love
Genre: Garage punk, noise pop
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Push You Aside

Seattle’s Star Party is a collaboration between Carolyn Brennan and Ian Corrigan, who have created a hell of a noise pop album together with their debut record under the name. Meadow Flower is blown-out pop music at its finest, with Brennan’s voice setting up melody after melody over top of instrumentals cranked to eleven almost all the time.  Meadow Flower shares a love of hooks with the twee/K Records bands from Star Party’s native Pacific Northwest, as well as the punk sensibility that runs through a lot of that music, both of which battle against a roaring sound that recalls late 00s/early 10s acts like Times New Viking and early Cloud Nothings.

“You and Me” kicks Meadow Flower off with a garage rock rave-up, and “Living a Lie” keeps the energy up for a fun indie pop punk number. The record’s sugary attitude is only amplified by the lo-fi production and instrumentation choices; “Shot Down” employs a galloping drum machine beat that the rest of the song works overtime to complement, none of which gets in the way of Brennan’s drolly catchy vocals. Under the fuzz, “Veil of Gauze” snakes its way to a smoking garage rock final refrain, the wall of sound congealing into something glam-like.

The gentle title track is a pastoral thing, featuring minimal percussion led along by reverb-heavy jangle guitar and plodding bass, and it’s Meadow Flower’s one true reprieve—although album closer “A Trip Home” merits a mention here too, as it does feel a little more subtle than the rest of its pummeling kin. “You’re a human being, you make mistakes,” is the last thing Brennan says on Meadow Flower; whether it’s meant as reassurance or warning gets lost in the actual ending of the record: more fuzz. (Bandcamp link)

Massage – Oh Boy (Reissue)

Release date: March 11th
Record label: Mt. St. Mtn.
Genre: Jangle pop, post-punk, college rock
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Lydia

Oh Boy (and, by extension, the band Massage itself) is the product of a group of musically-inclined acquaintances congealing into an actual band, and it sounds like it. Not in the casual “sloppily-recorded and –played basement jams”, way, no—Massage are decidedly not that kind of band. But the Los Angeles five-piece group sound excited about their ideas, how they’re going to present them, and who they’re presenting them with throughout Oh Boy, originally released in 2018 and recently re-pressed by Mt. St. Mtn. after a successful 2021 for the band.

There’s a song midway through the record called “Under”. It’s not my favorite song on Oh Boy, but it’s good, and basically just repeats one line over and over again (“Dummy lyrics”, the song’s notes describe them). You could drive yourself mad trying to figure out why “Under” works, or just accept that it does and roll with it. “Under” is a good centerpiece for the record—it’s got a propulsion that sets it apart from the record’s more wistful songs, but despite its zippiness it has a simplicity in tune with Oh Boy’s quieter moments.

The upbeat songs (the lightly anthemic “Lydia”, the giddy “Kevin’s Coming Over”, the melody-working-overtime “Liar”, the post-punky “Cleaners”) all sound like lost college rock singles that maybe showed up on some compilation once. The dreaminess that caused me to place 2021 Massage firmly on the “rainy day” side of jangle pop is still there even in these tracks—and conversely, there’s a clarity in the slower songs like “Gee”, the title track, and even the sparse closing track “At Your Door” that works to bridge the gap. Oh Boy is probably the Massage record that is least interested in deliberately cultivating a single mood throughout, but they were already doing it. (Bandcamp link)

Premium Rat – Cope

Release date: February 25th
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Indie folk, alt rock
Formats: Digital
Pull track: Hide, Not Seek

“It’s not really funny, but it’s how I cope,” allows Ypsilanti, Michigan’s Mer Rey at the conclusion of “Intro”, appropriately the first track on the latest EP from their solo project Premium Rat. What follows is the bulk of Cope, a whirlwind of poppy alt-rock and spare indie folk, both of which are emotional if not formally “emo” (it hits similar beats for me that last year’s Harmony Woods record did). Cope’s six tracks feel fleshed out and the record as a whole feels self-contained—the EP’s unflinching look at both interpersonal and intrapersonal roughness helps its 21 minutes feel quite full.

Second track “Hide, Not Seek” is also Cope’s most musically upbeat song, which, combined with the (maybe) figurative scorched-earth lyrics, send the EP into a tailspin from which it seems to try to recover for the rest of its length.  “Vindicated” and “I Asked” are both gut-punchers, the former finding Rey exploring a snythpop-curious sound to “celebrate” the hollow titular emotion and the latter dragging things out as slowly and painfully as possible. “Tell Me That We Made It” closes out Cope on a subdued, uncertain note, but compared to the aforementioned songs (not to mention the quite literal “Deathwish”), it suggests there might be something to Rey’s declaration in the intro track. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

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