Pressing Concerns: Bad Heaven Ltd., Brush, FonFon Ru, Janelane

This week’s Pressing Concerns features new albums from Bad Heaven Ltd., Brush, and FonFon Ru, as well as a new EP from Janelane. As per usual, it’s a star-studded entry.

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

Bad Heaven Ltd. – In Our House Now

Release date: January 28th
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Lo-fi indie rock, dream pop, slowcore
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Al

Bad Heaven Ltd. is the solo project of Pennsylvania-based John Galm, and In Our House Now is his third album under the name since 2016. I didn’t know anything about Galm before hearing this record, but I later found out he was in Snowing, a cult favorite emo group with which I’m passingly familiar, as well as several other groups. In Our House Now, however, falls squarely into the category of “hazy, downcast indie rock” and sounds more like bands such as Hovvdy, Sparklehorse, and Grandaddy than anything else. Like the best records in this genre of music, Bad Heaven Ltd. avoids the common pratfalls of grayness and facelessness with memorable melodies and inspired instrumental choices from the get-go. In Our House Now starts off on a subdued yet strong note with “Al”, in which Galm’s tender vocals glide over synths and programmed drums.

Galm’s voice is a highlight for me throughout In Our House Now; it’s striking despite sounding humble and breathy, sneakily selling songs like “Night 2” and reminding me a good amount of the aforementioned Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle.  Nowhere is the comparison more apt than “Love Hurts”, a six-minute original that incorporates the melody of the Everly Brothers tune of the same name and ends up sounding like a take on Grandaddy’s cover of that track. The music of In Our House Now isn’t an afterthought to Galm’s singing, though—it’s complementary, with even heavier songs like the psychedelic “Without” and the shoegazy “Back to You” sounding handled with care. The odyssey of “Almost Cut My Hair” is really the only moment of In Our House Now that doesn’t resolve into a deft pop tune. Like “Love Hurts”, it’s also lengthy (and like “Love Hurts”, it borrows the name of a more famous song), but the 8 minutes of “Almost Cut My Hair” wander through noise and near-silence before bowing out. It’s hypnotizing, and then the sunny pop of “Heads Gone Away” that immediately follows sounds even brighter. (Bandcamp link)

Brush – Cabeza

Release date: April 8th
Record label: Self-released
Genre: 90s alt-rock, punk, alt-country
Formats: Digital
Pull track: Astral Plane

New York’s Brush is a group comprised of former members of Adult Dude, Chumped, and Katie Ellen, and though they’ve been around for a couple of years now, Cabeza is their first full-length record together. The band sound more mellow than the relatively high-energy pop punk of Chumped or the emo-tinged rock of Katie Ellen, but aside from a few pleasantly surprising appearances of pedal steel guitar, the record confidently rolls along in its “alt-rock/punk rock-adjacent” lane. There’s a world-weariness that colors the songs of Cabeza, starting with opening track “One Too Many Times”, which feels like the aural equivalent of rolling up one’s sleeves and saying “Ah shit, here we go again”. Like the Big Nothing record from earlier this year, Brush find a way to spin memorable tales from this weighed-down energy. “Cat” and “Suffer” are the songs that slip into the aforementioned pedal-steel dressing, both in the service of melancholy ballads—the waltzing latter song in particular is a successful left turn.

In a different genre but not a world away, Brush shift fully into 90s alt-rock mode with the vaguely-dark, muted power chords of “Doll”—work up some of-the-time single artwork featuring a ragged doll covered in dirt, and it’d slot in rotation nicely in between Everclear and the Goo Goo Dolls. This post-grunge subdued roar is where Brush seem to find their comfort zone, and it’s also where they push out of it the most. “The Exit Might Be Behind You” takes its mid-tempo groove and finds a subtle optimism to it, and the lighter-holding power ballad “Between You and Me” doesn’t even need to be subtle about it. My favorite song on Cabeza, “Astral Plane”, finds the band deep in kayfabe, committing wholly to quiet-loud dynamics with dreamy verses shot through with a “Brain Stew”/Blue Album-esque chorus. “Sign” closes the album with what I take as a good-natured shrug, its uncertainty resolving into a spirited finish mirroring Cabeza as a whole. (Bandcamp link)

FonFon Ru – Collapse of the Silver Bridge

Release date: April 15th
Record label: Repeating Cloud
Genre: Post-punk, punk
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Fatty Tissue Thorn

Bridge collapses are the platonic ideal of a subject for a certain strain of post-punk music. You’ve got the cold, metallic, industrial, structural angle on one hand, but you also have the human-based horror of a potential mass casualty event and, at least in the specific instance FonFon Ru have chosen to title their latest record, the specter of the supernatural. With all this in mind, I’d expect the Portland, Maine trio to be practitioners of the dour and grim side of their chosen genre, but Collapse of the Silver Bridge doesn’t really slot into that particular mold. This becomes apparent from album opener “Fatty Tissue Thorn”, an upbeat, energetic alt-rock banger, and a couple tracks later, “Manicure Manager” takes this even further by being positively giddy sounding. Lead singer Harry James’ delivery is refreshingly dexterous—they can deliver a melody like in the previously mentioned tracks, but they’ve got the more traditional post-punk modes of sing-speaking (“Don’t Let the Cat Out”) and growling (“Tu”) down as well.

Those latter two tracks are particularly solid examples of how Collapse of the Silver Bridge, despite not feeling overly “grim”, isn’t an “un-serious” record either. The former resorts to a straightforward boil to rage against income equality, and the latter burns down the end of the album with some Dischord-esque rhythmic post-hardcore energy (see also “I’ll Let You Lick the Salt Off My Hands”, which shambles its way into something approaching psych rock). Even the “pop songs” go beyond the initial rush they provide in the context of Collapse of the Silver Bridge—“Fatty Tissue Thorn” introduces the health anxiety that fuels the rage in “Don’t Let the Cat Out”, and “Manicure Manager”, underneath its makeup, contains a sincere message about embracing “non-traditional” outlets for male anger. FonFon Ru aren’t the first post-punk band to concoct a record that mixes in red meat, healthy vegetables, and sugary sweets, but Collapse of the Silver Bridge does it without ever sounding dumbed-down or feeling like homework. (Bandcamp link)

Janelane – Okay with Dancing Alone

Release date: April 14th
Record label: Astoria Tracks
Genre: Pop rock, indie pop, power pop
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Ask Me Why

Los Angeles’ Sophie Negrini has been performing as Janelane for nearly a decade at this point, and she’s released a handful of singles and EPs under the name since 2015, even as she’s also spent time touring as a member of the underrated Canadian garage rock hitmakers Peach Kelli Pop. The latest Janelane release is the four-song Okay with Dancing Alone EP, a brief but enjoyable showcase for Negrini’s pop songwriting skills.  The four tracks of Okay with Dancing Alone all sound like they’ve come from the same mind, even as Negrini injects each one with its own clear backdrop.

“Goodbye to Heartache” is Okay with Dancing Alone’s maximalist piano rock opener, “Another Drug” is the reverb-y jangle pop tune with a decidedly retro-sounding hook, “Fool for Yesterday” is the stripped down, heart-on-sleeve acoustic closing track, you know. All three are quite successful, as is “Ask Me Why”, which combines the rolling-with-the-windows-down propulsion of “Another Drug” with the showmanship of “Goodbye to Heartache”. Although, really, “showmanship” could be applied to every song on this EP; Negrini takes control of these songs like she’s got a dozen full-length albums under her belt instead of about one LP’s worth spread across several years. With that in mind, I look forward to where Negrini takes Janelane in the future. (Bandcamp link)

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