Pressing Concerns: Motherhood, Young Guv, Pet Fox, Grass Jaw

The second Pressing Concerns of the week looks at new albums from Motherhood, Young Guv, Pet Fox, and Grass Jaw. If you missed the first post of the week because it went up on an odd day (Monday), I look at new records from Green/Blue, Interior Geometry, Hazy Sour Cherry, and Wowza in Kalamazoo here.

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

Motherhood – Winded

Release date: June 24th
Record label: Forward Music Group
Genre: Post-punk, art punk
Formats: Vinyl, CD, cassette, digital
Pull track: Crawly I

An “avant-punk” trio hailing from the rather unlikely location of New Brunswick, Fredericton’s Motherhood have been marching to the beat of their own drum for nearly a decade now. Their latest record, Winded, has a barebones, almost live-in-studio feel, with the core of guitarist/vocalist Brydon Crain, bassist/vocalist Penelope Stevens, and drummer Adam Sipkema tearing through both garage rock rippers and weirder turns. Crain’s vocals have a really pleasing sung-spoken quality to them, especially in songs like single “Shepherd”, in which his delivery somehow sounds both lazy and rushed at the same time.

Winded roars out of the gate with the opening duo of “Crawly I” and “Crawly II”, both of which are revved-up post-punk garage numbers, although they accomplish this in different ways—the former speeds along at a breakneck pace, the latter stomps around intensely. Although Motherhood do rave up later on in Winded (see mid-record workout “Ripped Sheet”), the heart of the record is a more mid-tempo but still rather thumping version of prog-punk-pop. “Tabletop” is a hypnotic rhythm section workout, and the eerie “Handbrake” introduces the idea of a Motherhood ballad (explored further in “Shuttered Down”). The stop-start of closing track “Trees” slowly takes the shape of something akin to 60s pop-rock, a clear an example as any of Motherhood making something inviting out of unlikely beginnings. (Bandcamp link)

Young Guv – GUV IV

Release date: June 24th
Record label: Run for Cover
Genre: Power pop, jangle pop, psych pop
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Too Far Gone

GUV IV is Young Guv’s second record of 2022, and it comes from the same origins as did March’s GUV III (one of my favorite records of the year so far). The impetus for both records began during an extended stay by Young Guv leader Ben Cook and his bandmates in the New Mexico desert in 2020, and they were both recorded in Los Angeles the next year. The short way to differentiate between the two is that GUV III was the more “traditional” power pop one, while GUV IV is airier and more psychedelic, but because it’s still Young Guv we’re talking about, these songs still strongly evoke the “pop” side of psych pop.

Cook’s foray into desert psychedelia is unsurprisingly deft, calling to mind both the Laurel Canyon sound and more modern practitioners of similar music like Ty Segall and Cool Ghouls. Songs like “Change Your Mind” float along lazily and hazily, and the multi-layered “Overcome” particularly feels like a trip. Most of GUV IV is more of a mix between the pure psych embrace and more traditional GUV pop fare—the confident handclaps of opening track “Too Far Gone”, the jangle pop heart of “Sign from God”, the brisk indie pop of “Cold in the Summer”, the surprising but quite accessible country rock of “Maybe I Should Luv Somebody Else”. Young Guv records have traditionally held a lot in which to get lost; it makes sense that Cook would eventually settle on evoking a whole desert for an album. (Bandcamp link)

Pet Fox – A Face in Your Life

Release date: June 17th
Record label: Exploding in Sound
Genre: Math rock, 90s indie rock
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Checked Out

Pet Fox feels almost like the quintessential Exploding in Sound Records band—to the point where it feels strange that A Face in Your Life is only their first full-length record for the label. Just their connections to other EIS bands alone could qualify them: vocalist/guitarist Theo Hartlett and bassist Morgan Luzzi also play drums and guitar, respectively, in Ovlov, while drummer Jesse Weiss played in Grass Is Green and Palehound. But the music contained within A Face in Your Life also makes the case—the trio play a welcome math-y strain of 90s-influenced indie rock that’s well in line with the core of their label’s roster.

 Opening track “Settle Even” eases into the Pet Fox experience with its slow-burn, five-minute runtime, before presenting the listener with some more Dischord-influenced songs (“A Face in Your Life”, “Undeserving You”, both of which also remind me of another Dischord-influenced EIS band, Two Inch Astronaut). “Checked Out” taps into the indie rock-by-way-of XTC nervous pop that’s one of my favorite sub-sub-genres in this type of music. Hartlett’s guitar leads continuously stick out on A Face in Your Life—chiming and melodic, they give the record the unique feeling of austere indie rock, but with bright marks and accents drawn over it. (Bandcamp link)

Grass Jaw – Circles

Release date: June 17th
Record label: Habitforming
Genre: Alt-country, fuzz rock, folk rock
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Excuses

“All I want is to never have to do anything again,” sings Brendan Kuntz at the beginning of “Deer Song”, which comes midway through Circles, the latest record from his project Grass Jaw. Kuntz has been developing his own particular mix of slowcore/indie rock with folk and alt-country for a while now (Rosy Overdrive wrote about Grass Jaw’s Anticipation last November), but Circles in particular feels like a weary record. That doesn’t make it a depressing album on the whole, however—“Deer Song”, for instance, leads Kuntz to think “Maybe my life isn’t so hard” after seeing the titular animal, and songs like “Start Over” (featuring Pet Fox’s Theo Hartlett on guitar) are positively uplifting.

Although Kuntz’s Brett Sparks-esque stoic holler and rickety guitar are constants throughout Circles, the record features a somewhat-surprisingly adventurous assortment of other instrumentation, most prominently saxophone at the end of “Dopamine” (played by Tom Yagielski), but also trombone (Egor Remmer) and melodica (Kuntz himself). In addition, the “traditional” rock band instruments find time to let loose on the record (like in “Mules”), giving Circles a full and frequently loud sound, which suits these odd country tunes just fine. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

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