Pressing Concerns: Romero, Whimsical, Parsnips Under My Feet, Renata Zeiguer

Today’s Pressing Concerns tackles new albums from Romero, Whimsical, and Renata Zeiguer, plus a compilation of Blackpool, England’s Pumf Records compiled by Pittsburgh’s Floating Mill Records. Check ’em out!

The March Playlist also went up this week, which I’d recommend exploring heartily. If you’re looking for more new music, you can browse previous editions of Pressing Concerns or visit the site directory.

Romero – Turn It On!

Release date: April 8th
Record label: Feel It/Cool Death
Genre: Power pop, garage rock, punk rock
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Turn It On!

The debut album from Melbourne, Australia’s Romero is a non-stop blast of classic punk rock-infused power pop that rips through eleven sturdy songs gleefully and deftly. Most of Turn It On! has a big, go-for-it kind of energy that evokes the 1970s as much as any of the deliberate “retro” flourishes in their music do—it reminds me of Sheer Mag’s starting points of influence, as well as the poppier moments of Screaming Females. And to be clear, Turn It On! is very much a pop album. Romero come from the garage punk underground (the frequently noisy Feel It Records is releasing Turn It On! in the U.S.), the record demands to be played loud, and lead singer Alanna Oliver is more often than not belting out her lyrics, but these are professionally-done pop songs—at the time of me writing this, five of Turn It On!’s tracks have been released as singles, and all of them make perfect sense in this context.

The Free Energy-esque cowbells and “whoo-hoos” in the cruising title track make it an obvious choice for lead single, as does the more mid-tempo vocal showcase “Halfway Out the Door” (the press release describes the song as a “ballad” and “melancholic”; it rocks as hard as anything else on the album). But then, you’ve also got the sprint of “Honey” and the head-bopping “Troublemaker” as advance tracks, and they’ve gotta be up there. And these are just the singles—they all feel like obvious choices until one looks at what remains, including “Crossing Lines” (which, in a record that bathes in “cool”, might nudge its way to being the coolest-sounding song of them all) and “Petals” (which is as exhilarating as “Honey”, but unhinged instead of merely excited). The closest thing to an outlier on Turn It On! is penultimate track “White Dress”, the only track that doesn’t have a clear catchy chorus, preferring to let the lead guitar take the refrain in the context of something slightly more dirge-y. Only in the context of Turn It On!, however; Romero don’t do anything halfway. (Bandcamp link)

Whimsical – Melt

Release date: April 1st
Record label: Shelflife/Through Love
Genre: Shoegaze, noise pop, dream pop
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital
Pull track: Crash and Burn

Dyer, Indiana’s Whimsical has been around since 1999 (give or take a ten year hiatus in the late 2000s/early 2010s), and its lineup is now reduced to the core duo of Krissy Vanderwoude (lyrics and vocals) and Neil Burkdoll (everything else). Melt, their fourth record, certainly doesn’t sound like a band running out of steam. It comes less than three years after their last record, 2019’s Bright Smiles & Broken Hearts, and with some one-off covers released intermittently, Whimsical are currently the most active they’ve been in their career. Melt is a confident album; most of these songs stretch past the five minute mark, but they avoid dragging or excess repetition in their structures. The opening march of “Rewind” kicks off Melt with a groove that plows forward even as Vanderwoude’s lyrics search into the past for inspiration, and the loaded psych-tinged rock of “Gravity” keeps the energy up by following.

The roaring “Crash and Burn” marks Melt’s midway point with an excited number that speeds up and slows down like the rollercoaster to which its lyrics allude. The actual “heart” of the record, though, is the song before it, “Melting Hearts”. The semi-title track is surprisingly soft and tender in pretty much every way; its thawing lyrics mimic the classic shoegaze loud/sensitive, darkness and light dynamics as well as anything. The song seems to unlock the other side of Whimsical, which gets explored in second-half songs like “Searching”, which washes over the listener with a gentle atmospheric feel and resonating synth textures, and “Quicksand”, where Vanderwoude’s vocals glide over drum-machine-aided synthpop. While I remain impressed that Whimsical can shift into shoegaze overdrive like in the first few tracks and “Crash and Burn”, it’s the innovations elsewhere that keep Melt fresh. (Bandcamp link)

Various – Parsnips Under My Feet: DIY Punk & Bedroom Pop from Pumf Records, 1986-98

Release date: April 12th
Record label: Floating Mill
Genre: Lo-fi pop, post-punk
Formats: Cassette, CD, digital
Pull track: I Am the Horse

Since 1984, Blackpool, England’s Pumf Records has (and continues to) release loads of music via cassettes, CDs, and digital downloads, frequently in the form of compilations of songs by their regular stable of bands and artists. Even though Pumf is still active, the team-up with Pittsburgh archival record label Floating Mill makes sense, as this is a label that has long excavated similar artifacts of lo-fi and post-punk persuasion. Parsnips Under My Feet collects fourteen songs from seven Pumf-associated acts, although all of the “bands” on the compilation feature Pumf Records founder pStan Batcow either alone or with a group of backing musicians. Parsnips Under My Feet starts with two songs that emphasize the “pop” side of Pumf: the Def-a-Kators’ giddy instrumental “Theme” opening things up, and Howl in the Typerwriter’s perfect lo-fi pop tune “I Am the Horse” right after—contemporaries The Cleaners from Venus would be the recognizable point of comparison here.

Although several more songs on Parsnips Under My Feet are catchy, the rest of the compilation casts a wider net—we get sloppy political garage rock (“War’s a Bore”), cold post-punk (“Retentive-Anal Schoolboy (Loves His Mother)”) and frightening sonic assaults (“Heeby Jeeby Insect Wiggle”). Nearly half of these songs are instrumentals, and oddly enough, they’re some of the most accessible moments on the compilation (other than the aforementioned “Theme”, there’s the bouncy post-punk of “Walk Like a Pedestrian” and the flanged reverb-pop of “Flamboyance”). At some point in Parsnips Under My Feet—maybe it’s at the genuinely confusing “Jaw Meal Terror One”, or at the oddly compelling six-minute history lesson of “Rasputin”—you begin to understand why Pumf were never destined to become the next Factory Records. By the end of the compilation, though, you understand why pStan seems to wear that as a badge of honor. (Bandcamp link)

Renata Zeiguer – Picnic in the Dark

Release date: April 8th
Record label: Northern Spy
Genre: Indie pop, dream pop
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital
Pull track: Evergreen

On her second full-length album, Brooklyn’s Renata Zeiguer walks the aurally pleasing tightrope of attempting to synthesize old, familiar pop music sounds into something new and able to stand on its own. Picnic in the Dark is a somewhat unassuming record on its surface; it’s clear that Zeiguer and her co-producer Sam Evian, who also plays on the majority of Picnic in the Dark’s eleven songs, put effort into making the album sound airy and straightforward, with Zeiguer’s voice often accompanied by little more than sparse percussion and some instrumental flourishes. The record (equally as deliberately, I’d assume) then sneaks up on you; this is frequently mimicked on the song level, where tracks like “Eloise” start off with light synth tones and drum machine beats only to come to life over the span of a couple of minutes.

“Sunset Boulevard” is a somewhat restrained opening track; Zeiguer accents her centered vocal with harmonies that pop in and out of the mix, and just when the instrumental background sounds like it’s going to get busy, it shies back (it almost feels like dub at times). Elsewhere, “Mark the Date” is a sparkling minimalist tune that is, along with the melancholic, Spanish-sung closing track “Primavera”, one of the more openly bossa nova-influenced tracks on Picnic in the Dark. Like throughout the rest of the record, these are the wrinkles that stand out among the songs on repeated listens—some, like the propulsive hooks of single “Evergreen” or the relatively dark verses of “Whack-a-Mole”, pop more readily, while others, like the acoustic, pastoral “Avalanche” take a bit of time. Eventually the differences become more pronounced which, seemingly paradoxically, smoothes out Picnic in the Dark even more. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

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