Pressing Concerns: Scarves, CLAMM, Spite House, Little Mazarn

This week’s Pressing Concerns looks at four new full-length records: Scarves, CLAMM, Spite House, and Little Mazarn. There’s something for everyone here.

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

Scarves – Delicate Creatures

Release date: August 26th
Record label: Good Eye
Genre: 90s indie rock, indie pop
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Dead Batteries

Delicate Creatures, the fourth full-length record from Seattle’s Scarves, is a familiar-sounding album by a band that nevertheless portrays a unique style over the course of the LP’s ten tracks. Guitarist/singer Niko Stathakopoulos’s high, comforting vocals evoke both Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch and John K. Samson of The Weakerthans, touchstones that bear out both lyrically and musically as well. Stathakopoulos’ writing veers between the found poetry that’s a hallmark of the latter and twee-indebted straightforwardness in which the former has dabbled, and the music of Delicate Creatures points toward rainy, sprawling Pacific Northwest indie rock while retaining an indie pop simplicity as well. Although Stathakopoulos’ voice is probably the most immediately noticeable part of Delicate Creatures, he and the other band members (guitarist/vocalist Nessa Grasing, multi-instrumentalist Elijah Sokolow) find remarkable inspiration in 90s indie rock throughout the record.

These sensibilities polish up everything on Delicate Creatures from the slowcore/emo harmonics-accented middle-record duo of “Tide Pools” and “Bandits” to the bass-driven fuzz-pop of “Dead Batteries” to the indie pop of the title track and “Heavy Eyes”. “Heavy Eyes” in particular finds Stathakopoulos taking some of the successful lyrical risks that being a good pop writer require (“No, I don’t care how you came to me / ‘Cause you look gorgeous in barely anything”). As tender as Delicate Creatures can be, Stathakopoulos, also in twee fashion, uses an outward friendliness for darker and deeper effects—songs titled “Bunnies” and “Hamsters” feature refrains about (respectively) limping away from a bear trap, bleeding and maimed, and discovering the banal, cruel true nature of the world. Delicate Creatures isn’t a despondent record so much as an honest one—in closing track “Caesar”, Stathakopoulos sings “I just hope something gorgeous grows from the dirt,” completing his own request. (Bandcamp link)

CLAMM – Care

Release date: August 19th
Record label: Chapter Music
Genre: Punk rock, garage rock, noise rock
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Monday

“And the people outside, they don’t care about nothing / It’s just a scheme,” yells CLAMM’s Jack Summers in the chorus of “Scheme”, the opening track to the band’s sophomore record, Care, aided by the backing vocals of bassist Maisie Everett. It’s an aggressive, in-one’s-face assertion that while, sure, the various bastards that populate these fifteen songs may not care about basic human values, CLAMM do, and they do so quite loudly. Care follows very much in the well-trod but fertile ground of Australian garage punk, with the Melbourne trio whipping up a storm around Summers’ barking voice. Care does feature a few accents that stick out a little bit before being swallowed up by their sheer punk-power-trio force. Nao Anzai’s synths shade the underbelly of several of these songs, while Anna Gordon’s saxophone merely adds to the chaos in songs like the title track and “Fearmonger”.

CLAMM keep their fire trained on specific and worthy targets throughout the record—whether it’s the rejection of the “business as usual” “post”-pandemic push of “Buy”, the sneering at soul-sucking-work culture in “Monday” (which features Everett’s most memorable vocal performance), or the title track, in which the band simply list the things about which they care in the chorus (“Rights, lives, lies, life”). CLAMM aren’t afraid to be direct and specific in their lyrics, like in the brief “Global” (“Our leaders are global traitors / No action / No response to climate changes”) or in “That Way”, another noisy punk song that just straight-up asks “Why does it have to be this way?” These are the questions one gets naturally led to when one cares. (Bandcamp link)

Spite House – Spite House

Release date: August 26th
Record label: New Morality Zine
Genre: Punk rock, post-hardcore, emo
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Hope

Spite House guitarist/vocalist Maxime Lajoie and drummer Marc Tremblay first played music together a decade ago, but Spite House is the first full realization of their partnership, rounded out by the contributions of bassist Nabil Ortega.  Lajoie’s rough but strong vocals and the barreling music evoke the 90s indie-punk bands like Samiam and Seaweed that they cite as influences, even as the record has a polished, reverb-aided sound that puts them in line with some of the more mainstream 90s alt-rockinfluenced bands on their New Morality Zine label. Much of the material on Spite House deals with the sudden death of Lajoie’s mother in 2019, and the trio’s chosen method to break open this incredibly tough subject is catchy, cathartic, but quite serious punk rock, best exemplified by the record’s initial three-song sprint.

From there, Spite House settle into the lane defined from their opening salvo, but the record’s slight deviations help the band carry themselves through the full-length runtime. “Essence” starts off as restrained mid-tempo alt-rock and works its way up to its roaring conclusion, and the appropriately-titled “Hope” is a driving number that’s about as melodic and uplifting as this genre of music gets. Spite House can also tilt in the more extreme direction—towards the end of the record, “Afraid” shapes their sound into a particularly frightened version of emo-punk. These songs aren’t digressions from the core of Spite Houses so much as peeks around corners—they don’t get in the way of what’s a fully-formed punk rock thought of a debut record. (Bandcamp link)

Little Mazarn – Texas River Song

Release date: August 19th
Record label: Dear Life
Genre: Dream folk, indie folk
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital
Pull track: Halifax Ranch

Little Mazarn is an Austin-based folk duo, made up of Dallas natives Lindsey Verrill (vocals, banjo) and Jeff Johnston (singing saw). The circumstances behind Texas River Song are illuminating in understanding where the band are coming from—sidelined from touring due to the pandemic, these songs are the sound of Little Mazarn growing reacquainted with and more appreciative of their home state. Little Mazarn are a somewhat spacey duo that can get tagged as “experimental folk”—but perhaps due to taking inspiration from the land that produced both Townes Van Zandt and Daniel Johnston, Texas River Song makes little effort to separate out this side of them from the “traditional”.

Texas River Song is marked in equal parts by the more “out there” tracks (like “Lightning in the Water”, a hovering suspension of a song, and the percussion-led, plodding “Blue Jumped a Rabbit”) and the more familiarly-structured folk songs (the molasses-slow, twinkling “Every Heart Is True” and the Okkervil River-esque horns and group-vocals finale that appear in the six-minute title track). The record can be stable and deliberate, like in the gorgeous “Halifax Ranch”, or start off on the ground and drift off like album closer “Woodmen of the World”—by the time Verrill declares “I wanna make God laugh / I tell them my plans” at the end of Texas River Song’s last track, her meandering banjo and wordless backing vocals are what rise to accompany her. (Bandcamp link)

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