Pressing Concerns: Perennial, Hello Whirled, Frances Chang, Anne Malin

This week’s Pressing Concerns is comprised of new(-ish) records from Perennial, Hello Whirled, Frances Chang, and Anne Malin.

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

Perennial – In the Midnight Hour

Release date: February 1st
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Post-hardcore, dance punk, garage rock
Formats: Vinyl, CD, cassette, digital
Pull track: Perennial in a Haunted House

In the Midnight Hour has been out a while (since February), but it’s new to me and this is my blog and I do what I want, so we’re talking about Perennial today. The New England band’s second album feels like a completely inhibition-less rock record, where thrashing post-hardcore, expanded-palette art punk, and catchy garage rock all combine to make something unforgettably attention-grabbing. Vocalists Chelsey Hahn and Chad Jewett trade off their taunts and howls on pretty much every song on In the Midnight Hour, Jewett’s guitar and Wil Mulhern’s drums slice and punch through each track, and the entire record sounds great, thanks in part to production from Chris Teti of The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die.

In the Midnight Hour immediately barrels through the opening duo of “The Skeleton Dance” and the title track, both of which come off as demented, demonically-possessed surf rock tunes that are carried by Mulhern’s pounding percussion. Although the dance-punk of third track “Soliloquy for Neil Perry” is slightly tamer by comparison, respites in In the Midnight Hour mostly have to be found within individual tracks, like when “Food for Hornets” and “Melody for a New Cornet” just kind of fade away after letting off steam. Other than “Hey Eurydice”, every song on the record finds the band “on”, with both of the album’s singles (“Tooth Plus Claw” and “Perennial in a Haunted House”) showing up on a side two that loses no steam whatsoever. (Bandcamp link)

Hello Whirled – Hoping for a Little More…Pizzazz

Release date: July 22nd
Record label: Repeating Cloud
Genre: Lo-fi indie rock
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Holding Back the Water

The CliffsNotes version of 90s indie rock is that it was populated with chronic irony peddlers, led by bands who simply could not communicate anything remotely sincere without obscuring and meta-writing. Hello Whirled’s Ben Spizuco does not strike me as someone who takes his cues from CliffsNotes. There’s the work ethic, for one—if you read Rosy Overdrive regularly, you’re familiar with the prolific output of Hello Whirled (whose records are always written and performed almost entirely by Spizuco). For another, Spizuco’s music is aggressively, confrontationally sincere, digging down to the bedrock of lo-fi music—dudes expressing their emotions in the only way they know how (Lou Barlow is the patron saint of this, but far from the only one).

Hello Whirled’s long-awaited first full-length record of 2022 continues this trend from the get-go with “When Can I Admit I Miss You”, whose refrain begins with “I wanna cry in the shower / But then I’d have to learn how to,” only to be upstaged two lines later with  “I wanna die in the sense / That everyone forgets who I am and leaves me alone”.  Hoping for a Little More…Pizzazz then jumps to “Holding Back to the Water”, reminding the listener of Spizuco’s pop songwriting, the other main Hello Whirled hallmark. Hoping for a Little More…Pizzazz feels a little more sonically heavy than the 2021 Hello Whirled albums—not that those records didn’t have loud moments, but perhaps the longer gestation time allowed Spizuco to really punch up songs like “Ruins”, “Nothing Changes”, and the droning album closer “A Cathedral Repeatedly Falling Apart”. Still, the pop Spizuco comes through on single “Cheerleader” and “20 Minute Saxophone Solo”, among other songs, giving Hoping for a Little More…Pizzazz a rounded-out feeling. (Bandcamp link)

Frances Chang – Support Your Local Nihilist

Release date: July 22nd
Record label: Destiny Is a Dog
Genre: Experimental indie rock, slowcore
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Support Your Local Nihilist

Brooklyn’s Frances Chang has been in several bands and released music under various project names, but Support Your Local Nihilist is the first record she’s released under her own. Chang has made music that falls under the banners of ambient, musique concrète, and electronica, but Support Your Local Nihilist is clearly an indie rock record, if a decidedly asymmetrical one. The song’s nine tracks do not end up where they start, instead forming mazes of guitars, synths, and percussion that are held together by Chang’s centered vocals.  Album opener “P Much Deranged” and the record’s title track both start off as guitar pieces—the former slips into a minimal presentation of Chang’s voice and guitar while “Support Your Local Nihilist” jumps into alt-rock—but both deconstruct themselves in the second half into synth-based soundscapes.

The quieter songs on Support Your Local Nihilist don’t have as far to travel—the acoustic-based “Escapism” carefully steps forward, although the reverb-y slowcore of “Flower Childs” starts vibrating towards its end. “Headless” is perhaps the most “normal” song on Support Your Local Nihilist—there are moments of noise, but these are around the edges of a weary, mid-tempo indie rocker.  Closing track “Solo Tripping in the Deathverse” floats along, Chang draping a melody over synth washes and bursts of drumming. Support Your Local Nihilist drifts to an impressive degree, but there remains plenty to hold onto on the record. (Bandcamp link)

Anne Malin – Summer Angel

Release date: June 17th
Record label: Dear Life
Genre: Folk rock, freak folk, alt-country
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital
Pull track: Pink Blur

Anne Malin is a Nashville-based poet and singer-songwriter, and her latest album Summer Angel is a folk- and country-indebted record that centers Malin ably. Malin and her band (featuring, among others, Trevor Nikrant of Styrofoam Winos on drums, organ, synthesizer, and vibraphone) color the songs of Summer Angel but leave plenty of empty space in a way reminiscent of the work of Nina Nastasia or Jason Molina. It’s an electric album, but a restrained one—the foot-tapping, cyclical guitar riff that opens first track “Pink Blur” sets the stage nicely for a set of sparse ballads and steady-footed mid-tempo folk rock.

Malin isn’t constrained by the traditionalism of the genres in which she’s operating—the saxophone in songs like “Mary (Dear God Please Help Me)” and “Burdens” feels as natural as the “normal” instrumentation, and mid-record highlight “Roses” imagines a middle ground between the country rock of Rosali’s No Medium and the hushed psychedelia of Spencer Krug’s recent solo material. Elsewhere, the organ-led “Destroyer” is Anne Malin’s run at star-driven, unstuck-from-time pop music—like the rest of Summer Angel, it takes familiar ingredients on a leisurely path to a memorable final product. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

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