Pressing Concerns: The Tisburys, Vundabar, Order of the Toad, Mythical Motors/Antlered Auntlord

Welcome back to Pressing Concerns, second edition of the week edition! Today’s new one looks at new albums from The Tisburys and Order of the Toad, a new old record from Vundabar, and a split release from Mythical Motors and Antlered Auntlord. If you missed the first Pressing Concerns of the week (featuring Bed Bits, Old Moon, Why Bother?, and Graham Repulski) because it went up on a Tuesday, check it out here.

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

The Tisburys – Exile on Main Street

Release date: September 16th
Record label: Sacks of Phones
Genre: Power pop
Formats: CD, digital
Pull track: The Tisburys (On Main Street)

The third record from Philadelphia’s The Tisburys is an expansive album with a host of discernable influences that remains fresh-sounding. Exile on Main Street (yes, they really called it that) contains shades of (among other things) power pop, jangle pop, 90s radio-pop-rock, and the heartland rock that seems to populate their home city, and they also very casually reach one state over to grab a Springsteen influence (there’s a song called “On the Run in Harmony, NJ”, and “Language of Luxury” quotes the Boss directly, but they’re hardly the only songs on Exile on Main Street to bear the marks of Bruce).

Exile on Main Street kicks off with an opening theme of sorts—“The Tisburys (On Main Street)” pulls out all the stops: a giant sprint of a tempo, roller-rink keyboards, a monster hook, and, yes, plenty of saxophone. Most of The Tisbury’s pop music from then on is a little calmer, but it’s no less catchy—it gives singer-songwriter Tyler Asay’s vocals room to be the center of attention, which they are throughout the record. The record rolls through the pastoral jangle of “Second Sign”, the Big Nothing-esque power pop of “Garden”, and the almost-noir feel to the aforementioned “On the Run in Harmony, NJ”. In its second half, Exile on Main Street gives us “Paulette”, which transforms from the record’s sparsest song to the one with the most impressive guitar workouts. 

The consistency of the record is what strikes me on repeated listens—the grinning pop rock of songs like “When Love Knocks You Down” and “La Mancha” might get overlooked in favor of the more showy tracks on the record at first, but not for long. By the time we get to the closing track, “Exile (On Main Street)” (that title isn’t just a Replacements/Stones riff, by the way—it’s also a reference to Asay’s place of work, Main Street Music), Asay is repeating the chorus that he used to blaze into the start of the record, sounding more subdued but still quite animated. (Bandcamp link)

Vundabar – Good Old

Release date: September 16th
Record label: Gawk/Amuse
Genre: Post-punk, garage rock, alt-rock
Formats: Digital
Pull track: Bad Sun

Quietly one of the more consistent bands of the past decade, Boston’s Vundabar have slowly amassed an impressive discography of five quality full-length records since 2013—they’ve more than earned the victory lap that is Good Old, an odds-and-ends collection of sorts intended in part to mark ten years together as a band. Good Old is less of a comprehensive collection of Vundabar tunes and more two mini-albums mixed into one: four of the tracks are acoustic versions of songs from their most recent record, April’s Rosy Overdrive-approved Devil for the Fire (albeit one of these songs, “Alien Blues”, was only re-recorded for that record and originally appeared on 2015’s Gawk), while the rest of the album is made up of previously-unreleased originals recorded between 2015 and 2018.

Still, this timeframe for the previously-unheard songs is an illuminating one, because it captures the band in a state of transition between the nervous, jerky post-punk revival of their first two albums and the more wide-ranging, brighter (but still recognizably Vundabar) indie rock that they would steadily move towards beginning with 2018’s Smell Smoke. Songs like “Shadow Boxing” and “Bad Sun” find the band mining fuzzy alt-rock that only somewhat obscures the pop hooks, while the lumbering “Tungs” is Vundabar at their least preoccupied with accessibility (and is still weirdly catchy). Meanwhile, the acoustic versions of the newer songs only accentuate their pop songwriting: the already-delicate “Aphasia” feels even more intimate in this context, and “The Gloam” slows itself down, revamping the song dramatically but not losing anything in the process. These are some of Vundabar’s best songs; Good Old may be a cap on the band’s first decade, but there’s little reason to assume that it marks the end of anything.

Order of the Toad – Spirit Man

Release date: September 16th
Record label: Hidden Bay/Gringo
Genre: Indie pop, post-punk, pop rock
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Let Myself Go

Order of the Toad are an energetic four-piece pop rock band from Glasgow, led by the striking vocals of (primary) lead singer and bassist Gemma Fleet, and aided deftly by drummer/vocalist Christopher Taylor and guitarists Andrew Doig (aka Robert Sotelo) and Fionnan. Spirit Man is the group’s third record since 2018, and it finds the “retro pop” band offering up a dozen infectious songs that incorporate everything from new wave to power pop to garage rock to 60s pop before the Order of the Toad are through with them. The recent addition of Fionnan as second guitarist is felt in the melodic leads that weave in and out of these songs, like the alternatively stomping and galloping “Beyond the Pale” and the creeping “Solo Amor”.

Fleet’s singing is centered on every song in which she takes the lead, and while not every song is as openly arresting as, say, her Kate Bush-esque vocal theatrics on “Foghorn”, the rest aren’t far behind. Taylor sings lead on three tracks on Spirit Man, and his droll sung-spoken vocals help emphasize the post-punk side of the band, particularly in the stop-start “Salt of the Earth” (the Fleet-sung songs don’t have this specific feeling, but the chugging verses of “Subterranean” and the new wave chorus of “Golden Rod” similarly spotlight Order of the Toad’s interest in the early 80s). Spirit Man is captivating in its eagerness to paint enthusiastically with the band’s musical tools, and it is at its best when several of Order of the Toad’s influences come together—like in “Let Myself Go”, in which Fleet sings a timeless pop melody over busy bass playing and soaring guitar leads. (Bandcamp link)

Mythical Motors / Antlered Auntlord – Split

Release date: August 26th
Record label: HHBTM
Genre: Lo-fi indie rock, power pop, garage rock
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Wave Red

The last time Rosy Overdrive looked at Mythical Motors, the lo-fi power pop project of Chattanooga’s Matt Addison, was a little less than a year ago, on the cusp of the release of their album A Rare Look Ahead. For their next record, Mythical Motors have joined with HHBTM Records (Good Grief, Fishboy, The Wedding Present) to release a split cassette with Athens, Georgia’s Antlered Auntlord, another band who enjoys packing their lo-fi indie rock with pop hooks. The Mythical Motors side of the split (their own Bandcamp page refers to it as Field Trip to the Ghost Town) delivers ten pieces of bite-sized pop rock that Addison does quite well. Mostly hovering around the two-minute mark, Mythical Motors bash out rockers like opening track “The Instant Forever” and “Orchestra Pit of Flames” (where Addison pushes his vocals more than usual) and synth-shaded ballads like “On Circus Day” and “The Virgo Blitz”.

A good split release frequently forces the listener to discover a new band they wouldn’t have otherwise checked out, and, for me, this is the role of the Antlered Auntlord side of this cassette. Their half of the album feels more garage rock-y than the Mythical Motors end—while the latter is clearly a pop band that just happens to present their music in the lo-fi format, Antlered Auntlord are a lo-fi indie rock band that just happens to be on the tuneful side. There’s a frenetic energy to these songs that distinguishes them—you won’t hear a vocal performance as unhinged as “Spacial There (Half Bubble Off Plumb)” on the Mythical Motors side—but songs like the garage punk “Kit Bash” and the pogo-ing “Wave Red” are as much pop songs as anything from the cassette’s flip side. It’s a sensible match, and (more importantly) a quality album. (Bandcamp link)

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