Pressing Concerns: Expert Timing, Well Wisher, Red Pants, Late Bloomer

After two entries last week, we’re back to just one edition of Pressing Concerns for the week of the 23rd. But! There’s more than enough good music contained herein: new records from Expert Timing, Well Wisher, Red Pants, and Late Bloomer.

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

Expert Timing – Stargazing

Release date: September 23rd
Record label: Count Your Lucky Stars
Genre: Power pop, emo, pop punk
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Special Hell

Orlando, Florida’s Expert Timing make a version of self-described “bubble-grunge power pop” that’s emotional but catchy in a way that reminds me of 90s indie punk bands like Superchunk and Heatmiser. Stargazing is the group’s second album and first as a four-piece, following 2018’s Glare and a few EPs (one of which, 2021’s Live in Stereo, appeared in Pressing Concerns last year) as a trio. The husband and wife duo of Jeff and Katrina Snyder continue to trade off lead vocals on Stargazing in addition to providing guitar and bass, respectively, with Gibran Colbert returning on drums and second guitarist Nik Sidella being the new face.

With the quartet locked into place, Expert Timing rocket through eleven sharp pop songs in Stargazing. The record opens with a scorcher in “Special Hell”, a (mostly) Jeff-led song that twitches itself into an all-timer of a chorus, before offering up a pair of similarly catchy songs led by Katrina that also accentuate some interesting vocal choices and lyrics. A lot of Stargazing’s left-turn moments like these come in Katrina’s numbers, like in the oddly captivating single “New Queen”, or in her spoken word breakdown in the bridge of “Hey Friend”.

Not to be outdone, however, “The Bigger Picture” features lyrics and a vocal performance from Jeff that’s worthy of the more traditional emo of bands like labelmates Parting, even as Colbert hammers out a drumbeat that’s shockingly danceable alongside it. A few of Jeff’s songs might fly under the radar at first, but reveal themselves over repeat listens—the appropriately-titled “Short & Sweet” is a simple yet effective love song, and the crunchy “Homesick Hearts” is bass-heavy melodic punk at its best. All the more reason to keep spinning Stargazing. (Bandcamp link)

Well Wisher – That Weight

Release date: September 16th
Record label: Egghunt
Genre: Power pop, pop punk, emo
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Need You Around

New Jersey’s Well Wisher is a four-piece band led by singer-songwriter Natalie Newbold, which debuted in 2018 with This Is Fine. The group’s sophomore record, That Weight, comes four years later, and generally retains the hooky emo/pop punk sound that the quartet put forth on their debut record, although there’s enough musically and lyrically going on with That Weight to prevent it from feeling like This Is Fine, Part Two. One of the inspirations Newbold cites for the record is Pinkerton, and while her lyrics certainly meet the “confessional” metric, I also hear it stylistically, wherein her voice is centered and emphasized throughout the album even as the band rock arguably harder around her.

That Weight opens with the forward-charging power pop of “Need You Around”—the pounding instrumental that lifts the chorus and the guitar lead that shoots out immediately after it are both striking, but it all works to accentuate Newbold’s titular plea. Well Wisher settle in to a tough-sounding alt-rock for most of That Weight, although the band and Newbold are deft enough to turn this sound towards power balladry (“Let Me Down”), shout-along emo (the title track), and Smashing Pumpkins-esque 90s wall-of-sound rock (“Surface Love”).  According to Newbold, most of the record began as quiet acoustic songs, and the one song that remains that way on That Weight, “Emily”, is sparse and hard-hitting enough as it is that it’s hard to imagine it adapted another way. Well Wisher as a band and Newbold as a songwriter are more than enough to carry That Weight. (Bandcamp link)

Red Pants – Gentle Centuries

Release date: September 23rd
Record label: Painted Blonde
Genre: Lo-fi indie rock, dream pop
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Hot Water

Red Pants (the Madison, Wisconsin duo of Jason Lambeth and Elsa Nekola) began 2022 by releasing the When We Were Dancing cassette in February, and didn’t wait too long to put together a formal follow-up to the record with this month’s Gentle Centuries EP. The five songs on the EP proper are basement four-track recordings that end up having a distinctly different feel than that of When We Were Dancing—the louder, lo-fi shoegaze noise pop sound of the earlier album gives way to more meditative, restrained compositions.

The Yo La Tengo comparison still fits, but now applies to the quieter side of that band, and some moments (like the krautrock-y, synth-led opening track “Century Phaser”) are squarely in Stereolab territory. The pulsing “Paper Moon” continues this trend, before the rest of the EP wades into lo-fi pop territory (the crunchy, Guided by Voices-esque “Hot Water” is the immediate highlight, but the acoustic “Count to Ten” and the piano-led “Etched in Stone” will grow on you).

Cassette and digital download versions of Gentle Centuries come with five more songs (“leftover material” from the same sessions), which compliment the EP nicely by offering up tracks that fit in with the first two songs on Gentle Centuries (“Castles in the Snow”, “Lions”) and the last three (“Phantom Limb”, and an acoustic version of “Hot Water”). (Bandcamp link)

Late Bloomer – Where Are the Bones

Release date: September 9th
Record label: Self Aware
Genre: Acoustic rock, alt-country, folk rock
Formats: Digital
Pull track: Fern Creek

Late Bloomer is a Charlotte, North Carolina trio that has released three great albums of Dinosaur Jr./Superchunk/Nirvana-esque 90s-inspired alt-rock over the past decade (2018’s Waiting in particular is a front-to-back excellent and underrated record), in addition to bassist/vocalist Josh Robbins co-running Self Aware Records and playing in another one of its bands, Alright. The three-song Where Are the Bones EP is the most substantial release from the group (Robbins, guitarist/vocalist Neil Mauney, drummer Scott Wishart) since Waiting, and to say that it’s new territory for the band would be an understatement.

Where Are the Bones is effectively tentpoled by two five-minute songs with a one-minute ambient interlude (“Put the Piece Together”) connecting them. The opening and closing tracks both veer hard away from alt-rock, offering up two contemplative acoustic numbers instead. These aren’t basement-bashed-out, Sebadoh-style acoustic tracks, either. Robbins’ vocals are as delicate as they’ve ever sounded, and the various keyboard and percussion accents give the songs (particularly “Fern Creek”) a labored-over feel—these songs sound pretty. Where Are the Bones arose from the loss of both of Robbins’ grandparents in consecutive years—the lyrics reflect this, but so does the composition of these songs. Late Bloomer made an inspired choice to commit fully to what “Restless Nights” and “Fern Creek” required, no matter how much of a departure it became for them. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

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