Pressing Concerns: Ylayali, Daniel Romano, The Orchids, Rush to Relax

This week’s Pressing Concerns looks at new albums from Ylayali, Daniel Romano’s Outfit, The Orchids, and Rush to Relax. A great one for pop music!

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

Ylayali – Separation

Release date: September 2nd
Record label: Dear Life
Genre: Lo-fi indie rock, slowcore
Formats: CD, cassette, digital
Pull track: Natural

Francis Lyons has spent the last few years drumming in several notable Philadelphia bands (2nd Grade, Free Cake for Every Creature, 22° Halo), as well as amassing a considerable solo career as Ylayali. Separation is Lyons’ fourth record under the name since 2019, and it sounds like the work of somebody who’s developed a distinct sound—dreamy without being “dream pop”, “slowcore” that is only at times slow, “bedroom pop” with a host of other contributions from fellow musicians. Separation evokes the more humble side of 90s indie rock, with bands like Duster and Sparklehorse seeming to be touchstones—in terms of modern music, it reminds me a good deal of the Bad Heaven Ltd. album from earlier this year.

Separation opens with the ambient pop of “Green Walls”, a song led by a droning synth and plain-spoken vocals from Lyons, and soon subtly but noticeably shifts to different styles like the almost-bounciness of “Natural”, the driving “Nobody Knows” (which also buries a beautiful melody under its uptempo, bass-driven surface), or even the unexpected stomping fuzz-rock track near the end of the record (“All Kinds”).  Some of the shifts in Separation come within the songs themselves—single “Circle Change” starts with a whispered voice and echoed synths in its first part before becoming uplifting pop rock in its second half, and “Not Yer Spade” similarly moves between these two extremes. Lyons’ vocals remain a stoic presence throughout the rising and falling music of Separation, until the end where a few songs (“Lunch Hour Freedom”, “Getting There”, “Air”) feature lengthy instrumentals. Separation is, according to Lyons, almost entirely inspired by dreams and dialogues within them—with that in mind, it makes sense that Ylayali doesn’t lean entirely on words to convey this on the record. (Bandcamp link)

Daniel Romano’s Outfit – La Luna

Release date: September 9th
Record label: You’ve Changed
Genre: Psychedelic rock, alt-country, baroque pop
Formats: Vinyl, digital

Like many people, I was aware of Daniel Romano for a while, but only really started paying attention to the Ontario-based singer-songwriter after his pandemic year to remember. Regular readers of Rosy Overdrive should not be surprised that I was impressed with his prolific output and ability to jump from country to psych pop to punk rock and still retain a signature sound. La Luna is “only” Romano’s first record of 2022, but the nature of the album—it’s a single, thirty-three-minute song split into 12 “parts”—dares anyone to look at Romano and his five-piece Outfit and think of them as slowing down.

Of the dozen or so records Romano released in 2020, it’s tempting to compare La Luna the most to Forever Love’s Fool, the twenty-two-minute single-song prog suite he recorded with Tool drummer Danny Carey. The similarities are there, of course, but La Luna accomplishes something (to my ears) even more impressive: successfully adapting Romano’s 60s/70s-inspired psychedelia/country style into something grander. Although La Luna feels more like a single track than a dozen smashed together, the sections feature pop melodies distinct enough that they could stand on their own, either delivered by Romano himself or via a handoff to other members of the Outfit, who get their chances to lead over the course of La Luna as well. Like the sections of the record, the transitions between members are also seamless, and help La Luna feel like the product of an in-tune group of musicians working toward a shared vision. (Bandcamp link)

The Orchids – Dreaming Kind

Release date: September 2nd
Record label: Skep Wax
Genre: Indie pop
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital
Pull track: Didn’t We Love You

The Orchids are a long-running Glasgow twee/indie pop band who were present for Sarah Records’ heyday in the early 90s, and have been releasing music on and off since that point. Dreaming Kind is the group’s seventh full-length record and first since 2014, released on Skep Wax, a label by and for veterans of indie pop. Skep Wax’s Under the Bridge compilation (featuring a song from this record) demonstrated the ability of twee bands to grow and “mature” after decades of playing music, but The Orchids always had something of a head start in that department—their music has always given off a more pensive and “sophisti-pop” vibe than some of their peers’ youthful energy.

Lead vocalist James Hackett has a hushed delivery that gives the songs of Dreaming Kind an intimacy even at their most layered and overtly “pop”. Opening track “Didn’t We Love You” retains indie pop energy with jangly guitars and upbeat melodies, and single “This Boy Is a Mess” continues along in the same vein, but Dreaming Kind as a whole feels like a more contemplative record. Synths and other electronic elements color these songs—“A Feeling I Don’t Know” has some vocal manipulation, “I Don’t Mean to Stare” is a hypnotic dance number, and “I Should Have Thought” runs on a downcast beat. The Orchids remain devoted to pop music, whether it’s groove-driven, like the light disco of “Something Missing” or sparse, like the acoustic-and-strings-only “Isn’t It Easy”. Dreaming Kind has a unique feel to it; it’s immediate but layered in a way that reflects the band’s seasoned indie pop background. (Bandcamp link)

Rush to Relax – Misli

Release date: August 31st
Record label: Look Back and Laugh/Pop Depresija/Hidden Bay
Genre: Jangle pop, indie pop
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Krukče

Rush to Relax is the project of Macedonia’s Damjan Manevski, a Ljubljana-based singer-songwriter who takes inspiration from the music of his home of the Balkans, but in a way that will also hit close to home for those of us who are familiar with other classic guitar pop scenes, such as New Zealand’s Dunedin Sound and the C86 of Great Britain. If one isn’t listening close enough to hear that Manevski’s vocals are sung in his native Macedonian, the first few tracks of Misli could pass for a lost Flying Nun record, particularly the exuberant opening song “Krukče”.

The guitar pop “hits” continue throughout Misli—the quick-paced “Običen” features some excellent guitar leads and a singalong refrain, and penultimate track “Mirno mesto” saves some of Manevski’s best melodies for nearly the end. While the “pop” side of Misli isn’t interrupted by anything, some of Manevski’s other influences do peak through at points.  “Pravo uvo” has a full-band stomp to it that evokes garage rock and post-punk while still being quite hooky, “Koga ne mislam” is a dreamy ballad featuring a surprisingly showy guitar solo, and closing track “Pesni vo meani” ends the album on a pensive note, with a glittering guitar line dancing around a more contemplative whole. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

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