Pressing Concerns: Vintage Crop, Flowertown, Options, Fiver

Pressing Concerns is back after a brief hiatus. Today, we hit on new records from Vintage Crop, Flowertown, Options, and Fiver.

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

Vintage Crop – Kibitzer

Release date: June 24th
Record label: Anti Fade/Upset the Rhythm/Weather Vane
Genre: Post-punk, garage rock
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Drafted

Geelong, Australia’s Vintage Crop have been tearing through their mix of ripping garage rock and talky post-punk since 2017, with vocalist Jack Cherry frenetically but smartly caricaturizing mundanity and corporate nonsense in releases like 2019’s Company Man EP and 2020’s Serve to Serve Again (one of Rosy Overdrive’s favorite records of that year). Their third full-length, June’s Kibitzer, delivers on both fronts, with the band barreling through hooky but muscular pieces of egg punk over top of confident-as-ever Cherry observations.

“It’s me, I’m the Duke / It’s me, it’s not a joke,” Cherry crowns himself in “The Duke”, which adds keyboard accents to push the song into synthpunk territory, even as it forms part of an opening garage rock salvo along with the show business-mining “Casting Calls” and the stomping “Double Slants”. Elsewhere on Kibitzer, Vintage Crop get their Naked Raygun on with the military-minded “Drafted” and “The Bloody War”—the former features insistent bass and scribbled guitar for instant gratification, the latter giving Cherry’s close-to-spoken vocals space to reverberate. Kibitzer works as well as it does because of how well-oiled the band sounds on these songs—particularly on rhythm-forward constructions like “Under Offer” and “Hold the Line”, kibitzing never sounded so good. (Bandcamp link)

Flowertown – Half Yesterday

Release date: July 8th
Record label: Mt. St. Mtn./Paisley Shirt
Genre: Jangle pop, dream pop, slowcore
Formats: Vinyl, cassette, digital
Pull track: The Intersection

Flowertown are a dreamy and leisurely San Francisco duo made up of Karina Gill (of Cindy) and Michael Ramos (of Tony Jay, whose Hey There Flower just got reissued by Mt. St. Mtn. as well). Although Gill and Ramos have only been making music together since 2020, Half Yesterday is their fourth record together, following two EPs (later compiled together) in their first year as a band and 2021’s Time Trials. Time Trials already landed squarely on the quiet and slow end of guitar pop, and with Half Yesterday, Flowertown sound even more determined to let these songs take their time.

Opening track “Buttercream” has a bit of a propulsive drumbeat, even as the warm guitar reverb and Ramos’ whispered vocals are the most prominent aspects of the song, while the title track casually adds a lilting organ tone into the mix. Elsewhere on Half Yesterday, the duo approach the starkness of Tony Jay by offering up little more than electric guitar and vocal trade-offs, like in “The Evergiven” and the pin-drop closing track “Gaper’s Delay”. Like a lot of the best slowcore, Half Yesterday’s appeal isn’t so much in the technical playing (the best song, “The Intersection”, features simple chord changes and a very basic drumbeat), but in how Flowertown present and put together their building blocks. (Bandcamp link)

Options – Swimming Feeling

Release date: July 1st
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Slowcore, emo-indie-rock
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Toast

In addition to being one of the more accomplished recording engineers in recent memory and the new drummer for Mister Goblin, Chicago’s Seth Engel is fairly prolific on his own as Options. Swimming Feeling is at least his eighth record under the name, and it’s a strong entry into an already-impressive body of work. On the whole, I would put Swimming Feeling closer to the chilly, serious indie rock of 2020’s twin Options releases of Wind’s Gonna Blow and Window’s Open and further from the playful bedroom pop of 2021’s On the Draw, but there’s elements of that one here too, as well as songs that don’t fit neatly into either of those two camps.

Swimming Feeling’s opening track, “Toast”, has an alt-rock punchiness to it, chopping through a solid melody from Engel. Not long after, “The Bend” starts in what has become a familiar way for Engel—a downbeat power chord stomp. The middle of the record finds Options rocking in a 90s indie rock way not unlike Mister Goblin’s invigorated sound on earlier-this-year’s Bunny, with the stretch from “Take Time” to “Take It Tough” sounding particularly electric. Like most Options records, Swimming Feeling is a subtle album, but the distinguishing touches—like, say, the double-tracked vocals and two seconds of AutoTune in “Breaker”—reveal themselves. (Bandcamp link)

Fiver – Soundtrack to a More Radiant Sphere: The Joe Wallace Mixtape

Release date: July 8th
Record label: You’ve Changed
Genre: Folk
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Rosemary & Rue

Joe Wallace was a Cold War-era “Communist poet, activist, and Canadian political prisoner”, as well as the subject of A More Radiant Sphere, a documentary film by Sara Wylie. Simone Schimdt, who makes versitile folk-based music as Fiver, is an inspired choice to soundtrack Wallace’s life story. The first five songs on Soundtrack to a More Radiant Sphere are comprised of Wallace’s poems set to music by Schmidt, and they are given as much care and dressing as Fiver’s wholly original songs. While “Song of the Mournful Millionaire” gets more or less a straight protest folk reading, Schmidt isn’t content to just adapt Wallace’s poems in this fashion.

“Sacco & Vanzetti” and “Rosemary & Rue”, for instance, prominently feature violin courtesy of John Showman, and opening track “Your Arm Is Strong Enough” is marked by leisurely piano playing from Nick Dourado. The full range of Schmidt and her collaborators is even more apparent in the instrumental second half of Soundtrack to a More Radiant Sphere, which hops from Nathan Doucet’s percussion-led “Cargo of Hollywood Stars”, to the ambient “If It Does Spread” to the full-sounding “Wallace Goes to Russia”. Even without words, Fiver find ways to communicate in these songs as well, such as the music callback to “Song of the Mournful Millionaire” in the piano of “Stuff My Vaults”. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

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