Pressing Concerns: Mo Troper, Lou Turner, Dummy, S. Raekwon

The first Pressing Concerns of the month looks at new albums from Mo Troper and Lou Turner, a new EP from S. Raekwon, and a compilation of two older EPs from Dummy. September 2nd appears to be a stacked release date–I’m not done with it yet, so look for a few records coming out this week to show up on the blog later.

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

Mo Troper – Mo Troper V

Release date: September 2nd
Record label: Lame-O
Genre: Lo-fi indie rock, power pop
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Play Dumb

One of the most interesting things an artist can do is Enter a Phase—and with MTV, Mo Troper makes it clear that he’s squarely in the middle of one. In hindsight, last year’s (initially) self-released Dilettante marked the beginning of Troper’s foray into lo-fi, self-made recordings after previously trending towards the more pristine, but MTV (standing for Mo Troper V, of course) is a full embrace of the inherent messiness. At its extremes, the fuzziness of MTV results in straight-up noise pop, like the thrashing, unintelligible “Power Pop Chat” and the tinny explosion that follows after the pin-drop first half of “Royal Jelly”. For the most part, though, MTV knows when to strike the balance between the fuzzy noise and pop hooks.

MTV’s first two songs, the soaring pop rock of “Between You and Me” and the spiky, somewhat troubling glam-rock “I’m the King of Rock ‘n Roll”, are both undeniably catchy even as Troper pushes them into the red. Although it still feels a world away from 2020’s Natural Beauty, MTV does offer moments of clarity with the gorgeous jangly single “I Fall into Her Arms” and the genuinely surprising 60s folk-pop of “The Only Living Goy in New York”. There’s even a throwback for longtime Troper fans—“Play Dumb” is an older song that’s been floating around for a few years, and Troper’s contempt-dripping lyrics and straight power pop melody (not to mention the actual full-band recording) puts it squarely in Exposure & Response/Beloved territory. Even for that era of Troper the lyrics are particularly pointed and, without getting into specifics, mirror something going on in my personal life quite well (so, thanks for that, Mo).

MTV’s jumps in fidelity can be borderline disorienting at times (and this isn’t even acknowledging “Final Lap”, Troper’s very own version of a “Back to Saturn X Radio Report” snippet collage), but the album ends with a couple of songs built around very recognizably human sentiments. “You Taught Me How to Write a Song” uses floating synths to try to make sense of a formative relationship (“You were the cruelest person I’ve ever known / But you taught me how to write a song”), and “Under My Skin” grabs a jaunty, acoustic chord progression to formally declare to an ex-lover that they, in fact, no longer have any sway over him. MTV is something of a dispatch from the world of Mo Troper, and a confirmation that that world is as worthwhile as ever. (Bandcamp link)

Lou Turner – Microcosmos

Release date: September 2nd
Record label: Spinster
Genre: Folk rock, alt-country
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital
Pull track: Empty Tame and Ugly

Lou Turner is the final member of Nashville supergroup Styrofoam Winos whose solo material I’ve covered for Rosy Overdrive, but that isn’t for a lack of music (or quality). Microcosmos is Turner’s third solo album since 2017, and it’s absolutely the work of a skilled songwriter at the peak of their output. The album’s title is, for Turner, an attempt to give a name to the feeling of attaining adventure and motion in the domestic and fixed world (“a constellation of microcosms”) that is a (in fact, the) theme of the record. This is reflected in the way Microcosmos sounds like a contented, laid-back 70s folk-rock record, even as Turner’s lyrics and subject probe and roam within their contexts.

Microcosmos is peppered with memorable lines reminiscent of one of Turner’s biggest touchstones, David Berman (“The planet was born in the backyard / No gender reveal, but plenty of blue” from “Microcosmos”, “Santa’s Jesus Christ’s right-hand man / They’re turning wine back into water again” from “Look Out Below”).  Musically (aided in part by her Styrofoam Wino bandmates Joe Kenkel and Trevor Nikrant, among others), Microcosmos offers more than just backing music to Turner’s words—it jumps from spacey, sparse folk (the title track, “Smallest Mercy”) to electric country-rock (“What Might We Find There”, “Dancing to Hold Music”) to the fiddle-heavy traditional sounds of “Big Ole Head”.

Of course, Turner’s writing holds all of it together. “She’s gotten under your skin,” Turner sings in “Empty Tame and Ugly”, addressing and poking a hole into the shallow cowboy troubadour with which the song is concerned. The line also serves to connect it to the album’s one cover song, Simon Joyner’s “You Got Under My Skin”—one of Joyner’s leisurely, front-porch-chair songs that fits well musically on Microcosmos, and converses lyrically with Turner’s words in “Empty Tame and Ugly”. Microcosmos is, true to its title, a record that reveals both its ambition and its success in realizing it with closer and repeat listens. (Bandcamp link)

Dummy – Dumb EPs

Release date: September 2nd
Record label: Sonic Cathedral
Genre: Noise pop, psychedelic rock, ambient pop
Formats: Vinyl
Pull track: Pool Dizzy

Last year, Dummy released Mandatory Enjoyment, an exciting and expansive album of noisy psychedelia and space pop that was one of the most intriguing debut full-lengths of 2021. The previous year, however, the Los Angeles band had already established themselves as a noteworthy group with a pair of intriguing EPs. With Sonic Cathedral’s upcoming vinyl-only reissue of both records in one as Dumb EPs, it’s worth looking back at the band’s origins. The self-titled Dummy and the just-as-simply-named Ep2 are both looser than Mandatory Enjoyment—as free-wheeling as the full-length can be, there’s a throughline to it that the EPs largely eschew, even as all the ingredients appear to be there already.

Despite being the older of the two EPs, Dummy is the one that feels more in line with where they ended up on the LP, opening with classic Dummy noise pop in “Angel’s Gear” and nearly matching it with “Slacker Mask”, and saving the oddities for the back half with the not-completely-dishonestly-titled “Folk Song” and the eight-minute drone of “Touch the Chimes”.  Ep2 does feature the brisk runway pop of “Pool Dizzy”, but it’s the exception rather than the rule, as every track after the opening duo feels like the group’s deepest dive into straight-up ambient music thus far. Ep2 does break out of its trance in the second half of dreamy closing track “Prime Mover Unmoved” as well, to put something of a circular cap on both the record’s journey and the first leg of Dummy’s. (Bandcamp link)

S. Raekwon – I Like It When You Smile

Release date: September 2nd
Record label: Father/Daughter
Genre: Indie pop, R&B, dream pop
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Talk

I Like It When You Smile is the follow-up to Steven Raekwon Reynolds’ (aka S. Raekwon) 2021 debut album, Where I’m at Now. While the four-song, eight-minute EP is quite brief compared to his first LP (or even his 2022 one-off single “Single Mom’s Day”, which is the same length as this EP despite being only one song), S. Raekwon makes the most of his limited time throughout the record. I Like It When You Smile opens with “Talk”, the EP’s lead single and the obvious indie pop “hit”—the song’s bouncy piano-and-drumbeat backbone serves S. Raekwon’s gently excited vocals quite well.

Closing track “Tall” is the other track on I Like It When You Smile that matches the pop heights of “Talk”—it’s more subdued but still infectious, with a busy bass part, a wordless vocal hook, and a similarly-deployed piano/percussion structure. The middle of the EP is where S. Raekwon stretches out a little more, although the results are still relatively immediate: the barebones R&B of “Honey” is delivered just as deftly, and the pensive dream pop of “Tomorrow”, perhaps the EP’s true outlier, sports a gorgeous melody and has grown on me quite a bit. There are a few different paths S. Raekwon could take from this point, but none of them would be in the wrong direction. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

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