Pressing Concerns: Dogbreth, Faye, The Special Pillow, Guitar

We are not slowing down here! This week’s Pressing Concerns looks at new albums from Dogbreth and Faye, plus new EPs from The Special Pillow and Guitar.

The Rosy Overdrive July playlist went up earlier this week, which I recommend checking out if you haven’t already. If you’re still looking for more new music, you can browse previous editions of Pressing Concerns or visit the site directory.

Dogbreth – Believe This Rain

Release date: August 5th
Record label: Phat ‘n’ Phunky
Genre: Jangle pop, alt-country
Formats: CD, cassette, digital
Pull track: The Threshhold

Tucson, Arizona’s Dogbreth (formerly of, at various points, Phoenix and Seattle) was one of the DIY poppy-and-punky-but-not-pop-punky indie rock bands that sprung up in the late 2000s/early 2010s when mainstream indie was in its yacht rock phase. Like several of those bands, the group (led by singer/songwriter Tristan Jemsek) has strayed a bit from where they started but still are making worthwhile and rewarding music. The fifth Dogbreth record, Believe This Rain, is a sincere, starry album that’s equal parts desert country and classic jangle pop. The band cite some names that are eye-popping for Rosy Overdrive’s target demographic (namely Teenage Fanclub, Tommy Keene, and Miracle Legion) in the creation of Believe This Rain, but there’s also a wide-openness to these songs’ sound that befits their Arizona home and distinguishes them from their influences.

Believe This Rain’s first full-length song, “How You Did That”, is a gorgeous jangly ballad, introducing the openness that’s reflected both in the music and Jemsek’s lyrics, the latter of which is particularly exemplified by the rusty “Like a Walletchain” (“Gonna take better care of myself,” Jemsek vows, and the full title line is “I wear my heart like a walletchain)”. “The Threshold” is shimmery and cinematic, even adding fluttering synths to evoke the best of heartland indie rock acts like Wild Pink. The quieter songs are what make the backbone of Believe This Rain, but the rockers are anything but slight: “Morning Moon (Electric)” proves that fuzz rock is as good a tool as any for the elemental exploration that marks the record, the one-minute, one-verse “Kept Me Here” features maybe the hardest-hitting lyrics on the album, and “Sneak Preview” captures pure joy excellently. But still, it’s the sparse “Like Rain” that closes the record—Jemsek singing “I want every day to smell like rain” over pedal steel and minimal acoustic guitar just feels like the right ending. (Bandcamp link)

Faye – You’re Better

Release date: August 12th
Record label: Self Aware
Genre: Alt-rock, fuzz rock, punk rock
Formats: Vinyl CD, digital
Pull track: No Vibes

Charlotte’s Faye is part of a small but notable group of 90s alt-rock-influenced bands that have come out of their home city, including groups like Alright and Late Bloomer. The core of Faye is the duo of Sarah Blumenthal (who fronts the former of the two other aforementioned bands, and co-runs Self Aware Records with Josh Robbins of the latter) and Susan Plante, currently rounded out by drummer Thomas Berkau. The Justin Pizzoferrato-produced You’re Better is the band’s long-awaited debut full-length record (their most recent release had been a self-titled EP on Tiny Engines way back in 2016), and it’s a roaring, excellent-sounding rock record that wears its Breeders influence openly on its sleeve but has too much personality from its two songwriters to come off as derivative or “just” hero worship.

The thundering opening sprint of “No Vibes” sets up most of the key parts of You’re Better—the clear sound makes it easy to hear the equally-balanced fuzz bass from Blumenthal and Plante’s wildly swinging guitar contributions, and both of them are excellent understated vocalists, preferring to let the emotions baked into the songs slowly reveal themselves. In true 90s fashion, Faye find a way to turn every song on You’re Better into loud, amp-cranked alt-rock, no matter at what tempo or volume it starts. This goes for the more upbeat tracks like “Dream Punches” (built around a nice meaty guitar riff), the one-minute “Swing State”, and the rumbling “Nag D”, of course, but they also rock out in the record’s more subtle numbers. “In the Dark” begins with a relatively sparse fuzz bass and drumbeat intro that’s particularly Deal and Deal-esque (and that’s even before Blumenthal and Plante harmonize in the refrain), while closing track “Mortal Kombat” quietly builds for almost two minutes before closing out You’re Better in an appropriate way: with the band plugging in, letting loose, and sounding completely in tune with each other. (Bandcamp link)

The Special Pillow – Mind Wipe

Release date: August 12th
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Indie pop, psych pop
Formats: CD, digital
Pull track: Mind Wipe

The Special Pillow is a long-running, Hoboken-based group that’s been putting out their specific strain of indie pop since the mid-90s, led by songwriter, bassist, and former Hypnolovewheel member Dan Cuddy. Their New Jersey roots, the male/female vocal trade-offs, and their ability to shift from three-minute pop songs to seven-minute psych odysseys on a dime all recall their peers in Yo La Tengo, who are confirmed fans of the band because of course they are. I hear plenty more than that on their latest EP, Mind Wipe, though—decades of classic guitar pop bands, both 60s and 60s-evoking psychedelia, and Katie Gentile’s violin even gives parts of it a Mekons-y feel. The EP opens with the snappy psych-rock of the 90-second “Red Lantern”, which deftly marries the accessible and “out there” sides of the EP.

Mind Wipe’s jangly title track is The Special Pillow at their most pure pop, and the aforementioned seven-minute psych odyssey “So Inclined” is a pop song at its core as well, just one punched up and buttressed by lengthy instrumental passages around its edges. The bouncy, acoustic “Access Denied” is also quite catchy—while it doesn’t sound like NRBQ per se, its shuffling beat and its irreverent, tech-inspired lyrics that are about everything and nothing (“Can you prove that you’re not a robot? / …Access denied because you didn’t pass the test / You can continue as a guest”) remind me more of the New Rhythm and Blues Quartet than anything I’ve heard in a while. The Special Pillow save their most psych-heavy moments for the end of the EP, going out with the kaleidoscopic instrumental “Organic Panic” and the trippy, rhythmic “Another Tragic Chorus”; all their bases are covered effectively in six songs and around twenty minutes. (Bandcamp link)

Guitar – Guitar

Release date: July 22nd
Record label: Spared Flesh
Genre: Lo-fi indie rock, post-punk, garage rock
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: 122

The impossibly-named Guitar is the solo project of Portland’s Saia Kuli, who has previously played in the bands Gary Supply, Nick Normal and released music under his own name. The project’s debut release, the Guitar EP, is a muddy, scuzzy bedroom punk record that was “Frankensteined” together by Kuli almost entirely alone, with the end result sounding chaotic but captivating. “Twasn’t Meant to Be” and “_Cowbell2” kick off the EP with two garage-y, post-punk sounding tunes that hit hard with the low end (perhaps appropriately considering its title, Kuli used his guitar as a bass for the EP in addition to the “normal” guitar parts).  

The rest of the EP continues with the mix of weird chord changes, in-your-face sonics, and rewarding indie rock hidden underneath, although the latter songs of Guitar do differentiate themselves from the first couple. “122” relies on a hypnotic surf-y riff and the chanting between Kuli and his partner, Jonny (the only other contributor to Guitar), while the cyclical “Joy Cometh in the Morning” is still rough but slows things down just a little bit, and has some nice falsetto vocals from Kuli. It is worth spending some time with Guitar; if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance this is for you. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

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