Happy September! That means it’s time for Rosy Overdrive’s August playlist. Some of these songs will be familiar to readers of the blog, some will not be, but all of them are worth checking out. So, do so!
Kiwi Jr., Mo Troper, Tall Dwarfs, First Rodeo, Home Blitz, and Dogbreth all get two songs on the playlist.
Here is where you can listen to the playlist on various streaming services: Spotify, Tidal (missing one song), BNDCMPR (missing a couple). Be sure to check out previous playlist posts if you’ve enjoyed this one.
“Gotta Start Somewhere”, Jon Brion
From Meaningless (2001, Straight to Cut-Out/Jealous Butcher)
Like a lot of power pop fans, I’ve long regarded the sole solo album by Jon Brion (of The Grays, countless soundtrack scores, and notable production work for Fiona Apple and Aimee Mann, among others) to be a neglected and unfairly obscure gem of a record. Jealous Butcher’s upcoming reissue of Meaningless feels twenty years overdue, but I’ll happily take it, and in the meantime, “Gotta Start Somewhere” is indeed a great starting point for the record’s deceptively simple pop brilliance.
“Parasite II”, Kiwi Jr.
From Chopper (2022, Sub Pop)
Eh, Kiwi Jr. are allowed to do the “pivot to synths” thing. For one, they’ve already given us two full 90s indie rock/power pop-inspired LPs in a relatively short amount of time—and for another, their take on the genre is of the Cars-esque, garishly-accented variety, which works very well for the band. It all comes together in “Parasite II”, where blaring sirens crash into a vintage Kiwi Jr. skeleton and a particularly inspired vocal performance from Jeremy Gaudet.
“The New Year’s Resolution”, Spielbergs
From Vestli (2022, Big Scary Monsters/Fysisk Format)
Spielbergs’ first record, 2019’s This Is Not the End, was one of my favorite debut releases of that year, and their long-awaited follow-up Vestli picks up pretty much right where they left off. Still perched at the forefront of the surprisingly fertile Norwegian heartland-indie-power-pop-emo-rock scene, “The New Year’s Resolution” starts off the record with a roar, a rush of guitars and shouted vocals.
“Your Ideal”, Cinema Hearts
From Your Ideal (2022, Burnished)
The title track from Cinema Hearts’ Your Ideal is also the debut EP’s biggest success. The rest of Your Ideal features some interesting forays into dream pop and girl group-inspired music, but “Your Ideal” shines with pure Pixies-esque alt-rock stomp. The song’s lyrics, directly inspired by Caroline Weinroth’s history as a pageant queen, add plenty of bite to the bass-driven instrumental.
“Bobby’s Song”, The Roches
From Nurds (1980, Warner Bros.)
Nurds is my first full-length experience with The Roches, but it’s not going to be my last. I usually see the trio of sisters referred to as a “folk act”, but that doesn’t adequately describe either Nurds or “Bobby’s Song”, my favorite track from the record. The harmonies between the three Roche sisters are nuts all over the song, as they stretch and strain against the song’s 60s pop-rock instrumentation and subject matter (that’d be the titular heartthrob).
“Play Dumb”, Mo Troper
From MTV (2022, Lame-O)
Although September’s MTV is its formal release, “Play Dumb” is an older Mo Troper 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). Read more about MTV here.
“Life Is Strange”, Tall Dwarfs
From Unravelled: 1981-2002 (2022, Merge)
While part of me wishes Unravelled: 1981-2002 was comprehensive, the rest of me knows how unfeasible that is with the amount of material the Tall Dwarfs released over their twenty year career, and it’s hard to find fault with the breadth of the 55-song, 2.5 hour compilation. I can reach in there and find something new to appreciate every time—like “Life Is Strange”, originally from 1991’s Fork Songs, which is a classic lo-fi pop song that I don’t know why never really grabbed me until I heard it in this new context.
“Every Worry Like a Pet”, Brat Sounds
From Every Worry Like a Pet (2022, Gain Castle)
Milwaukee’s Brat Sounds are gearing up to release their fourth record sometime in October, and the A-side of its first single is a humble but compelling pop rock tune that has me curious to check out the rest of the album. “Every Worry Like a Pet” has multiple killer hooks, but isn’t overly showy about them—it feels very 90s alt-pop one-hit-wonder, in the best case scenario for that genre.
“Didn’t It Rain Last Night”, First Rodeo
From First Rodeo (2022, Forged Artifacts)
First Rodeo is the duo of Nathan Tucker (Cool Original) and Tim Howe (Vista House). Even though I was more familiar with Tucker’s music before hearing First Rodeo, my favorite track from the record is sung by Howe—“Didn’t It Rain Last Night” is a beautiful country rock song that stretches out to nearly six minutes, and I could listen to Howe’s delivery of the chorus (the title line, and also “Didn’t it thunder?”) for much longer.
“Talk”, S. Raekwon
From I Like It When You Smile (2022, Father/Daughter)
The four-song 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. It’s a fairly minimal track, but not so much that it doesn’t hit when S. Raekwon kicks it up a notch in the final half-minute. Read more about I Like It When You Smile here.
“Two Steps”, Home Blitz
From Out of Phase (2010, Richie)
I quite enjoyed Home Blitz’s 2020 All Through the Year EP, and I had a feeling I would like the rest of the music by the band (which is more or less the solo project of Daniel DiMaggio) when I got to it. And I do! Out of Phase is messier than where All Through the Year ended up, but it’s still an incredibly catchy garage rock/power pop record, and “Two Steps” marries lo-fi squall with jangle pop and just straight-up rock and roll in an exciting way.
“The Threshold”, Dogbreth
From Believe This Rain (2022, Phat ‘n’ Phunky)
Perhaps the “biggest” moment on Believe This Rain, “The Threshold” arrives nearly halfway through the record and claims the “centerpiece” mantle firmly. It’s a shimmery and cinematic jangle pop song, even adding fluttering synths to evoke the best of heartland indie rock acts like Wild Pink. Read more about Believe This Rain here.
“In the Dark”, Faye
From You’re Better (2022, Self Aware)
Faye is the duo of Sarah Blumenthal and Susan Plante, and their debut record You’re Better is excellent fuzzy alt-rock all the way through. Highlight “In the Dark” begins with a relatively sparse fuzz-bass-and-drumbeat intro that’s particularly reminiscent of one of their biggest influences, The Breeders—and that’s even before Blumenthal and Plante harmonize in the refrain. Read more about You’re Better here.
“Loose Lips”, Ex-Gold
From We Are Good (2022, Pig Man)
I don’t know too much about the band Ex-Gold. They’re a garage punk trio from Knoxville, Tennessee (their name really screams “southern garage punk band”, so that tracks), and their latest record We Are Good is a 21-minute workout of rippers. “Loose Lips” is post-punk at its wildest, all insistent bass and repeated riffs in the verses but with a vintage new wave chorus.
“Empty Tame and Ugly”, Lou Turner
From Microcosmos (2022, SPINSTER)
A key track to unlocking Lou Turner’s Microcosmos, “Empty Tame and Ugly” is a content, laid-back folk song that nonetheless features some of Turner’s strongest writing yet. Something of a parallel line to the “domestic troubadour” nature of the album, for one track Turner addresses and pokes holes into the shallow cowboy archetype that hovers out of sight throughout the rest of the record. Read more about Microcosmos here.
“Dead Drummers”, Near Beer
From NEAR BEER (2022, Double Helix)
Near Beer’s self-titled debut record is high-octane pop and punk that doesn’t sound like most “pop punk”—think something like a snottier Husker Du, or even Hot Snakes trying to make power pop. They’ve also got a heartland sincerity to them (belying their hometown of Los Angeles), reflected well in “Dead Drummers”, a song that makes no bones about its full-hearted belief in the power of rock music, man, in the face of some really tough times.
“Phantom Factory”, Dan Friel
From Factoryland (2022, Thrill Jockey)
It’s probably no surprise to readers of Rosy Overdrive that I prefer Dan Friel’s guitar-heavy rock bands Parts & Labor and Upper Wilds to his instrumental, synth-based solo work, but I like his songwriting enough that I usually enjoy the latter as well. Factoryland has plenty of moments that rise to Friel’s high shrill pop music standard, not the least of which is “Phantom Factory”, which spits out an incredibly catchy melody and makes damn sure you can’t miss it.
“Pipe and Pistol”, Spacemoth
From No Past No Future (2022, Wax Nine)
I’ve been somewhat obsessed with the sound of Spacemoth’s No Past No Future as of late. Maryam Qudus has amassed quite the resumé as a producer and engineer (most relevant to me: her background with John Vanderslice and Tiny Telephone), so it makes sense that her own music would have an arresting presentation. “Pipe and Pistol” is built off of a Stereolab-esque vintage synth sound and some hard-hitting programmed drums, and the combination just straight-up rocks.
From No Photographs (2022, Dinosaur City)
No Photographs is the debut full-length from Adelaide’s Workhorse (and their first release overall since 2017’s No Sun EP), and it’s an intriguing record that floats between dream pop and country rock. Opening track “Chain” is squarely in the middle, with a twangy lead guitar and violin accents contrasting with the song’s leisurely pace and Workhorse leader Harriet Fraser-Barbour’s unmoored, stoic vocals.
“Worker and Parasite”, J. Marinelli
From Putting the World to Rights (2022, ORG)
“Worker and Parasite” originally appeared on J. Marinelli’s 2021 Fjorden and Fjellet EP, and it gets a second look on his new full-length Putting the World to Rights. Over a catchy lo-fi pop backbone, Marinelli harmonizes with himself and weaves the personal and political together deftly over the course of the song (“There’s no struggle quite like your fight for attention” is a great one-liner in any context).
“The Layup”, The Human Fly
From Thrill of Living (2022)
Philadelphia’s The Human Fly have been making their combination of folk rock and guitar pop for around a decade now—the five-piece band’s latest record, Thrill of Living, feels somewhere between Matthew Milia and Friendship. Album highlight “The Layup” is an almost-soft rock song that’s aided greatly by Robert Mathis’ evocative vocals, which remind me of the more tender moments of Crooked Fingers-era Eric Bachmann, of all things—it’s the human center to what grows into full-sounding indie folk over the song’s course.
“I’m the King of Rock ‘n Roll”, Mo Troper
From MTV (2022, Lame-O)
“I’m the King of Rock ‘n Roll” is part of a one-two opening punch that really sets the scene for Mo Troper V, aka MTV. It’s a balancing act of a song that hovers between fuzzy noise and pop hooks—it’s a spiky, somewhat troubling glam-rocker that remains undeniably catchy no matter how in-the-red Troper takes it. Read more about MTV here.
“Passing Through the Void”, Ali Murray
From Passing Through the Void (2022, Dead Forest)
The appropriately-named title track to Ali Murray’s Passing Through the Void EP is vintage Murray: a gorgeous-sounding, slow-moving electric slowcore song that ends on a transcendent note by contrasting Murray’s tender vocals with a soaring guitar lead. Read more about Passing Through the Void here.
“Pretty Money”, Advertisement
From American Advertisement (2020, Patchwork Fantasy)
I knew that Los Angeles/Seattle’s Advertisement was another band that I’d probably enjoy, and now that I’ve gotten around to listening to them, I can confirm that this is the case. American Advertisement is at times psychedelic and at times garage rock, but just as frequently separately as together. “Pretty Money” is a nice and sneaky mid-tempo pop song that’s incredibly well put together.
“Hell for Leather”, Future Suck
From Simulation (2022, Rack Off)
Simulation is 23 minutes of pure Aussie punk, with Future Suck (a new band, but with plenty of service in previous Australian bands between its various members) blazing through quick hardcore-adjacent songs helmed by the dynamic vocals of Grace Gibson. Album highlight “Hell for Leather” is more classic punk, and features a particularly memorable performance from Gibson.
“Photograph”, Franklin Gothic
From Into the Light (2022, #veryjazzed/Pleasure Tapes)
Franklin Gothic is the solo project of Portland’s Jay DiBartolo, and his debut record Into the Light is an intriguing mix of several styles of indie rock and pop. Album highlight “Photograph” is a gentle song that mixes quiet acoustic-strummed verses with a shyly triumphant chorus—it could easily pass for something from the more barebones end of the Elephant Six collective, especially when DiBartolo deploys the harmonies.
“Burning Blue”, Tall Dwarfs
From Unravelled: 1981-2002 (2022, Merge)
“Burning Blue” is originally from the 1985 That’s the Short and Long of It EP (probably most notable for its closing track, “Nothing’s Going to Happen”), and it’s not as overtly poppy as “Life Is Strange” from earlier on this playlist, but it does showcase one of Tall Dwarfs’ key strengths. The song pulls off a dark and somewhat eerie vibe while still remaining squarely in the world of lo-fi pop—listen to those piano flourishes, for instance.
“Mind Wipe”, The Special Pillow
From Mind Wipe (2022)
The six-track, twenty-minute Mind Wipe showcases multiple sides to Hoboken’s The Special Pillow, and the EP’s jangly title track is the group at the purely “pop” end of their psychedelic pop. Dan Cuddy’s clear vocals and the arpeggio that recurs throughout the song are more in line with the sober moments of their fellow Jersey band Yo La Tengo than any kind of acid freakout—the trippy-ness is in the song’s lyrics, which are a (wiped) headscratcher. Read more about Mind Wipe here.
“Me Myself I”, Joan Armatrading
From Me Myself I (1980, UMG/A&M)
I can’t really go into Joan Armatrading’s illustrious (and still going!) music career in this brief post entry—suffice it to say, Me Myself I is just one chapter in it, although a substantial one. The record’s title track has some new wave production flourishes, but none of the bouncy guitars, synth touches, and Armatrading’s toe-dipping into shout-singing overly date the song, nor do they detract from Armatrading’s skill as a singer-songwriter. “Me Myself I” is first and foremost an “I love to be alone” anthem, and Armatrading more than has the authority to pull it off.
“Can You Leave the Light On?”, Sleepyhead
From New Alchemy (2022)
I associate New York/Boston’s Sleepyhead with the 90s indie pop scenes in which they came up—record labels like Slumberland and TeenBeat (as well as bands like The Special Pillow, whose Dan Cuddy was a member of Sleepyhead at one point). Having been reformed for a while now, their latest record, New Alchemy, has a country-rock feeling to it that might seem odd to those only familiar with their early work, but suits the trio well at this stage of their career. “Can You Leave the Light On?” has a retro sound that reminds me of bands like The Delines, aided in great part by Rachel McNally’s full-sounding vocals.
From Care (2022, Chapter Music)
CLAMM focus their anger and train their punk rock fire on worthy targets throughout the provocatively-tilted Care—the barreling “Monday” is one of the greatest examples of the trio’s skills on record. Jack Summers barks lyrics rejecting soul-sucking-work culture, and Maisie Everett’s backing vocals—which are basically co-leads for part of the song—are perhaps her most memorable performance yet. Read more about Care here.
“Rolling with the Moody Girls”, Home Blitz
From Frozen Track (2012, Kemado/Mexican Summer)
As if the high vocals and power pop worship of Daniel DiMaggio wasn’t enough to garner comparisons to Scott Miller of Game Theory and The Loud Family, his project Home Blitz covered the former band’s “Rolling with the Moody Girls” on their 2012 Frozen Track EP. Game Theory’s Two Steps from the Middle Ages was a last-time attempt to dress Miller’s songwriting up respectfully—DiMaggio turns the song into a gleeful cascade. Synths show up randomly, DiMaggio motors through the lyrics—it’s a totally different animal, but still a potent one.
“Slow Reaction”, Dewey Defeats Truman
From The Way You Shatter (2021, Silver Girl)
San Diego’s Dewey Defeats Truman made a couple records together in the early 2000s, and they’ve recently reunited for a pretty rewarding second act with their The Way You Shatter EP (released digitally last year and physically earlier this summer). “Slow Reaction” is 90s indie rock-influenced music at its finest, downcast but still propulsive, cryptic but still emotional.
“Delicate Creatures”, Scarves
From Delicate Creatures (2022, Good Eye)
Delicate Creatures is an excellent mix of indie pop simplicity and rainy, sprawling Pacific Northwest indie rock, and the captivating title track is one of the record’s biggest successes. Niko Stathakopoulos’s high, comforting vocals deliver lyrics that reflect the album’s preoccupation with a cold world and the bright things within it (“Just like every other wild thing, you will be punished just for existing”). Read more about Delicate Creatures here.
“Second Choice”, Any Trouble
From Where Are All the Nice Girls (1980, Stiff)
There’s a ton of these Elvis Costello-core bands from the beginning of the 1980s that have just been basically erased from history. Part of that might have to do with a smarmy sexism that has (thankfully) fallen out of favor, and with a title like Where Are All the Nice Girls, Any Trouble were not exactly immune to it either. “Second Choice”, however: “I only wanted to be one of the boys, now you’ve made me second choice” is pissy in a nice and vague way.
“Dark Cloud Blows Right Over You”, Sun Is Poison
From Dark Cloud Unhand Me (2022)
Sun Is Poison is the upstate New York-based lo-fi indie rock solo project of Will Seifert—Dark Cloud Unhand Me is Seifert’s second album of 2022 following January’s I Thought I Left You in Eden, and it bounces between sparse bedroom folk and full-band (albeit performed entirely by Seifert), 90s-inspired indie rock. Almost-title track “Dark Cloud Blows Right Over You” is a bit of both, opening with a quiet first part before the percussion and Seifert’s voice both rise in the second half.
“How You Did That”, Dogbreth
From Believe This Rain (2022, Phat ‘n’ Phunky)
Believe This Rain’s first full-length song, “How You Did That”, is a gorgeous jangly ballad, introducing the listener to the tenderness and openness that’s reflected in both the music of Dogbreth and in the writing of bandleader Tristan Jemsek. It’s a very Western United States take on the classic college rock Jemsek cites as influential for the record. Read more about Believe This Rain here.
“Patience”, First Rodeo
From First Rodeo (2022, Forged Artifacts)
Another Tim Howe-led song on First Rodeo, “Patience” is contemplative but forward-moving country rock that’s captivating from the beginning. Howe switches between storytelling and pulled-back observations throughout the song, as he ruminates on the meaning of the track’s title. As uneasy as Howe sounds at points, “Patience” is leisurely enough to reflect its namesake.
“The Sound of Music”, Kiwi Jr.
From Chopper (2022, Sub Pop)
Closing out this playlist and also this three-song repeat-offender suite, Kiwi Jr.’s “The Sound of Music” sets the band’s newfound synth toys to more of a “swoon” than the blare of “Parasite II”. Still, it’s a classic mid-tempo Kiwi Jr. pop song, even to the point of grabbing onto a piece of pop culture (in this case, Julie Andrews and company) amidst a sea of references and key observations.