Pressing Concerns: Devil Town Tapes, Flight Mode, Spread Joy, Turbo World

This week’s Pressing Concerns looks at new records from Flight Mode, Spread Joy, and Turbo World, as well as a new compilation from Devil Town Tapes. Somewhat shorter this week, as I’ve had less time to work on Rosy Overdrive of late. I may need to take next week off as well, but I’ll see if I can get something up.

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

Various – Welcome to…

Release date: May 6th
Record label: Devil Town Tapes
Genre: Lo-fi indie rock, bedroom pop
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Ok

Leeds’ Devil Town Tapes may not be the biggest cassette label in the world (if the term “big cassette label” isn’t an oxymoron by itself, but I digress), but label head Jack Laurilla and a disparate group of musicians and artists have spent the last three years or so building a notable discography, and just as impressively, a discography that gives Devil Town the distinction of having a defined “sound”. This unified front helps explain why Welcome to…, Devil Town’s first compilation, works as well as it does. The tape features contributions from the first five artists to release music on Devil Town (Cult Film, Omes, Dilary Huff, Greg Mendez, and Bedtime Khal); the first five songs are new originals from all the participants, and the cassette’s second side finds each covering a song initially written and recorded by another one of the five.

Devil Town Tapes lands squarely on the bedroom pop/lo-fi indie rock spectrum, but as the “originals” side makes clear, that’s a pretty wide category in which to explore and create. Cult Film’s “Trash” is an intriguing mix of slowcore and spirited synth/instrumental flourishes to start the record, while Dilary Huff’s “Mouth Shut” is content to stay in the Fuvk-esque indie folk lane. Bedtime Khal (the Devil Town artist with which I was the most familiar going into Welcome to…) contributes the downcast “4 Wheels (Don’t Cry)”, a fully-developed tune that’s “lo-fi” in attitude more than anything else. The “covers” side isn’t a huge sonic departure, unsurprisingly—everyone is game to turn these songs into their own. Cult Film adds reverb-y, shoegaze-y textures to the acoustic skeleton of Khal’s “Black Tears”, Greg Mendez (also of fellow Devil Town band Snowhore) floats through Huff’s “I Need to Hear That”, and Omes’ “Ok” surprisingly becomes a bass-driven post-punk revival tune in Khal’s hands. That’s plenty to celebrate on its own. (Bandcamp link)

Flight Mode – Torshov, ‘05

Release date: May 6th
Record label: Sound as Language
Genre: Emoish indie rock
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Blinks

Oslo’s Flight Mode fits into the category of new-ish, emo-ish, sincerity-forward indie rock bands to come out of Norway (like Spielbergs and Onsloow), although I believe that this three-piece group, led by singer/guitarist/bassist Sjur Lyseid, is a bit more directly inspired by emo music than the others mentioned. Not that Torshov, ’05 is filled with mathy, Midwestern twinkly guitar riffs or anything like that—I mean that the four-song EP is pretty explicitly about revisiting feelings and events from Lyseid’s mid-20s, living in the record’s titular neighborhood, around the record’s titular year. It’s a conceit that also marked Flight Mode’s last EP (2021’s TX, ’98, which took inspiration from Lyseid’s time in Austin as a teenager), but with Torshov, ’05, the Lyseid of the past is older, and the Lyseid of the present sounds appropriately more languid and introspective.

Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla was involved in the mixing of Torshov, ’05, which Lyseid makes clear is an accurate reflection of where he was at in the mid-2000s. The band (also featuring guitarist Andres Blom and multi-instrumentalist Eirik Kirkemyr) ebb and flow throughout the EP (from the sweeping, towering rock of “Blinks” and “Dö Yoü Rëmëmbër” to the delicate touches of “Togetherness”), but Lyseid rarely rises above his whispery disposition in Torshov, ‘05.  “How do you shake that restless feeling when you’re 24?” he asks in “Twentyfour”, letting the question itself do the heavy lifting, and if he reaches a little more in “Blinks”, it’s just to be heard over the song’s crescendo. For the climax of “Dö Yoü Rëmëmbër”, Flight Mode enlist Keith Latinen (Parting, Mt. Oriander) for an extra punch. But the last thing we hear is Lyseid quietly imparting “I used to know how a memory slips / Now I just can’t remember it”. (Bandcamp link)

Spread Joy – II

Release date: May 13th
Record label: Feel It
Genre: Post-punk, garage punk, no wave
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Repetition

Spread Joy burst onto the scene last year with their self-titled debut, which blazed through ten garage-y post-punk tunes in less than fourteen minutes. The Chicago group returns little over a year later with the appropriately-titled II, and it doesn’t lose any of the band’s momentum—it’s kinetic, it’s explosive, but it’s also weirdly hypnotic and memorable. A lot of the “memorability” of II has to do with the performance of vocalist Briana Hernandez. That includes the absurd, really out-there moments, like her sobbing through “Discomfort Is Palpable” and her babbling in “Chatter”, but even the “normal” Hernandez vocal tracks are done quite deftly—there’s everything from the playfulness in single “Repetition” to the dry drama of “Ich Sehe Dich” (Hernandez has previously lived in Germany, by the way).

Most of the songs on II are in and out in under two minutes—and they form complete thoughts in this amount of time. Early Wire is an obvious influence, and there’s an enjoyable emphasis on busy, front-facing bass guitar that evokes Gang of Four. II is full of all-out moments, not the least of which is the cacophonous no wave opener “Ow”, but plenty of other tracks on the record (“Spa Schedule”, “Dry”, “Contrition”) come barreling out the gate at full energy and don’t let up. Somewhat surprisingly, though, Spread Joy have multiple modes on II—the aforementioned “Repetition” and “Ich Sehe Dich” have something of a suave middle gear, and closing track “Language” stretches itself out to a prog-like three-and-a-half minute runtime. That song starts out a trot, revs up in its second half, only to shift back down to a closing groove. I’d consider that an appropriate flex for a potent band on their second record—Spread Joy are right on track. (Bandcamp link)

Turbo World – My Challenger

Release date: May 6th
Record label: Ramp Local
Genre: Avant-prog, psych pop
Formats: CD, cassette, digital
Pull track: Mambo 62

Turbo World is the duo of Stephen Cooper of “avant-prog” group Cloud Becomes Your Hand and Caroline Bennett of “digital hardcore” band Stice, and their first record together is a colorful prog-pop collection of songs with a decidedly unique source of inspiration. The nine tracks of My Challenger come from the world of (supposed) mafia hitman Max Kurschner, author of the memoir Killer. High stakes shade the lyrics of My Challenger, as Bennett and Cooper call up images of violence, money, and the threat of the law over odd but friendly synth-heavy music.

My Challenger drops the listener into the world of assassins immediately with “20K”, in which Bennett drolly inhabits the character of a particularly skilled one (enough to command the titular sum of money for their services) over a waiting-room instrumental. Bennett’s vocals are the key tenant of much of My Challenger, especially the (relatively) less adorned songs like the title track, “Greek Vase”, and “Shylocking”. In addition to handling most of the music, Cooper also contributes a couple of lead vocals, perhaps most memorably on “Cards”, the obligatory gambling-based number. The foundational elements of My Challenger are an odd mix, but (perhaps because of this) it comes off as a compelling tale. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

  • Yawners – Duplo
  • Peaness – World Full of Worry
  • Steve Hartlett – 1/2
  • We Are Joiners – EP 4
  • Praise – All in a Dream
  • Cliffdiver – Exercise Your Demons
  • Otoboke Beaver – Super Champon
  • Brennen Leigh & Asleep at the Wheel – Obsessed with the West
  • The Stroppies – Levity
  • Dälek – Precipice
  • The Future Dead – Planet Milk and the Non Stop Rain Dance
  • Dungeon Item – 1-1
  • Dama Scout – Gen Wo Lai (Come With Me)
  • Tomberlin – I Don’t Know Who Needs to Hear This
  • Death Hags – Big Grey Sun #4
  • The Aluminum Group – The Aluminum Group
  • Sonica – Inception EP
  • Stöner – Totally…
  • Honeyglaze – Honeyglaze
  • Diane Coffee – With People
  • The Builders and the Butchers – Hell & High Water
  • Hater – Sincere
  • LEEEKS – l e e e k s EP
  • Various – Another Distance to Fall: A Tribute to Sebadoh
  • Strange Parade – The Watchers

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