Pressing Concerns: Under the Bridge, Patches, Posmic, Eyelids

Today’s edition of Pressing Concerns looks at Skep Wax‘s various-artist compilation Under the Bridge, as well as new records from Patches, Posmic, and Eyelids. This is a great issue for anyone who enjoys pop music.

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

Various – Under the Bridge

Release date: March 18th
Record label: Skep Wax
Genre: Indie pop, twee
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital
Pull track: Lost in the Middle

Skep Wax Records was founded last year by Amelia Fletcher and Robert Pursey, most notably of (arguably) 90s twee’s flagship band, Heavenly. Already, the label has released new albums from Fletcher and Pursey’s current bands The Catenary Wires and Swansea Sound—although the work that generally leads off their press bios is getting to be three decades old, the pair come off as artists most interested in continuing to move forward. Skep Wax’s latest release, Under the Bridge, is a celebration and assertion of this impulse, with aid from another dozen-odd bands that feel the same way.

Under the Bridge is a look-in, of sorts—everyone on the compilation released music on Heavenly’s former home of Sarah Records, either in their original form (The Wake, Even As We Speak, St Christopher) or via older bands who did (Jetstream Pony and The Luxembourg Signal come from Aberdeen, Leaf Mosaic from The Sugargliders, etc.). You could spend the length of Under the Bridge multiple times over tracing the lineages of the bands involved, but it’s not required to enjoy the music at all. The music these groups made in their formative period is known for capturing youthful spirit, but the best twee bands did this against the backdrop of great songwriting, itself a timeless quality. The results of thirty years of growth from fourteen similar starting points are, understandably, disparate.

Synths and guitars both abound on Under the Bridge, some groups playing with a completely different sonic field than they did in the 80s and 90s, while others show their evolution in subtler ways. “Subtle” is a good work for Under the Bridge as a whole—these songs sound made by veterans, to stand up with time. The more C86-friendly songs—Evan As We Speak’s noise pop “Begins Goodbye”, a classic indie pop punk tune from Boyracer with “Larkin”, and The Catenary Wires’ “Wall of Sound”—all shine on their own, and in the context of Under the Bridge’s vast ocean of pop craft. Mile markers of the expanse include swirly, double-vocals shoegaze from The Secret Shrine, lightly psychedelic melodies from The Orchids, synthpop from Soundwire, and a song from St Christopher that manages to incorporate a bit of all of the above. Merely being the sum of its considerable parts would make Under the Bridge worth a listen, but the bands on the record don’t sound particularly content to be that yet. (Bandcamp link)

Patches – Tales We Heard from the Fields

Release date: February 25th
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Post-punk, jangle pop
Formats: Digital
Pull track: Parallel Mind

Patches are a new Austin-based trio comprised of Evan Seurkamp (of The Laughing Chimes), RKC, and Aaron Griffin. Their debut release is the full-length Tales We Heard from the Fields, a generous 14-song collection that takes cues from all over the map of the past 40 years of alternative rock music. Several hallmarks of post-punk characterize these songs, and there’s also clear influence from classic guitar pop. The instruments and melodies all sound distinct and clear individually, but there’s an overall murky haziness that might get the record tabbed as “lo-fi”. Plodding, expressive bass guitar tempers some of the brighter moments, and hooks still mark the moodier ones.

Tales We Heard from the Fields sets the tone with two 80s-inspired post-punk tunes, with album opener “Plastic and Gold” leaning on propulsive bass and “Canaries” trotting out jagged, frantic guitars and a panicked vocal from Seurkamp. Just when you think you might be getting the hang of what Patches are about, the sunny indie pop of “Parallel Mind” (which I already highlighted a couples weeks ago) blows open the gates. The balance of darkness and light becomes a theme on Tales We Heard from the Fields—songs like the triumphant power pop chorus of “Rosaley” and the chiming “The Back of the Cupboard” sit alongside post-punk workouts like “Wet Cement”, and they both share a shelf with the spacey atmospheres of “A Nice Day to Orbit Saturn” and the swirling textures of “London”.  Tales We Heard from the Fields is a deep-probing album, and I’d be curious to hear where the trio go from this starting point. (Bandcamp link)

Posmic – Sun Hymns

Release date: March 11th
Record label: Let’s Pretend
Genre: 90s indie rock, psychedelia, indie punk
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Fading (All Here Now)

The members of Posmic hail from the Baltimore and D.C. areas, and they’ve been releasing music together intermittently for the past two years or so. Their latest and most substantial release so far is this month’s Sun Hymns, an eight-song collection of brief, curious indie rock songs. The songs on Sun Hymns feel like mini-quests: they’re all trying to achieve a specific combination of sounds, and they bow out just as soon as it feels like they’ve gotten there. And there aren’t many bells and whistles on Sun Hymns, either. One of the bands that the press info compares Posmic to is their geographic older neighbors Lungfish, and they do have a similar “sober psychedelia” vibe to those Dischord misfits. It’s lifting music that’s confident enough to do what that genre does in the clothes of 90s indie rock and little else.

Vocalists Emily Ferrara and David Van help with this, I think. Van’s vocals are a light-stepping drone; Ferrara’s are firmer but still sound at a slight remove. They trade off or harmonize throughout Sun Hymns, one of the key bricks in songs like the  quickly-congealing fuzzy opener “Fading (All Here Now)” and the stop-start folk rock of “Mynah Hymn”. Posmic are working to transport the listener throughout Sun Hymns: it does feel like solar rays are hitting you directly in the up-close “I Believe in the Sun”, while the energy in “Change My Mind” has a decidedly underground feel. There are a couple late-record surprises, too, like the acoustic “Nosey Posey” and Ferrara’s surprisingly-straight country rock closing track “Black and Blue”. Ferrara’s voice soars alongside the music toward the end of the latter song. It’s the biggest, most forceful moment on the entirety of Sun Hymns…and then the EP ends. (Bandcamp link)

Eyelids – Everything That I See You See Better

Release date: February 25th
Record label: Jealous Butcher
Genre: Jangle pop, power pop, post-punk
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Everything That I See You See Better

Portland’s Eyelids have been a go-to band for quality guitar pop music since their inception. Led by indie rock ringers and Robert Pollard collaborators John Moen and Chris Clusarenko, and featuring a stable of veterans that now includes Camper Van Beethoven’s Victor Krummenacher, their albums feature reliably strong power pop songwriting and a deft touch to realize it on-record. Their latest release, Everything That I See You See Better, came out of the sessions for the official follow-up LP to 2020’s The Accidental Falls (one of my favorite albums of that year), but it’s a standalone 7” single (they’re calling the digital version an EP, which, at three songs and over ten minutes long, I’ll allow).

In terms of Eyelids full-lengths, it’s most similar to 2018’s Maybe More, which mixed new original songs with covers and live tracks. The two original tracks on Everything That I See You See Better are both runs at what Eyelids does best. The title track floats through arpeggiated guitar lines and heavenly vocal melodies, and “Wayhome” cranks up the fuzz a bit but it’s still a spirited pop tune at its core. It’s the third track, a cover of The Fall’s “Fantastic Life”, where Eyelids really veer off a bit. Their version of the tune (originally a non-album single that’s appeared on deluxe editions of Room to Live and Slates) doesn’t try to pretty things up—it remains faithful to the chaos of the original, even to the point of enlisting original Fall drummer Paul Hanley to help recreate the two-drummer stomp of the era of The Fall from which it came.

Whether or not Everything That I See You See Better is in any way indicative of what the next Eyelids LP will be like, I couldn’t say—I would guess that the first two songs reflect the future to some degree, though I wouldn’t be mad if a little bit of the third found its way there as well. The results are solid and worthwhile on their own, nevertheless. (Bandcamp link)

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