Pressing Concerns: The Trend, Office Culture, Kolb, Coughing Dove

Alright, we’re doing two different Pressing Concerns issues this week again. It’s just how it is–how it’s gotta be, actually. The Tuesday one gives us new albums from The Trend, Office Culture, Kolb, and Coughing Dove. Will there be another one on Thursday? You bet. What will it cover? Well, just wait a couple of days. Sheesh.

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

The Trend – Sgt. Pepper II

Release date: August 26th
Record label: Good Soil/Yellow K
Genre: Power pop, jangle pop
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Tell That Girl

I wasn’t initially planning on writing about this album, but I’ve come to feel like I’d be derelict in my duties if I did not—Sgt. Pepper II is both a very good album and also very in line with the core of Rosy Overdrive. So, The Trend is a band from the Maryland panhandle, and it appears that they released an album back in 2004, and a second record not too long afterwards. Their Bandcamp page lists four and a half members, but Sgt. Pepper II was written and recorded entirely by two of them: Kenny Tompkins and Brian Twigg. Tompkins is known to me for his prolific solo work as Mr. Husband and Kenny Husband, as well as co-running Yellow K and Good Soil Records, both of which released Sgt. Pepper II.

There is currently a power pop revival going on, a lot of which I’ve covered on this website. If that’s the side of Rosy Overdrive you’re interested in—particularly the fuzzier bands on this spectrum, your New Yous, your Dazys, your Supercrushes—I’m here to tell you that this record is as good as anything in the genre. Sgt. Pepper II is squarely in the realm of 90s alt-rock-flavored power pop—there are a lot of bands that get saddled with Blue Album-era Weezer comparisons, but The Trend actually sound more like it more than anything I’ve heard in quite a while (Tompkins’ solo music as Mr. Husband has skewed towards Beach Boys-esque baroque pop, which probably helps in that regard).

Songs like “Come Home” and “If Yr Leaving” are very Weezer-y in several aspects: the grunge-influenced amp-cranking, the wild catchiness, and Tompkins’ vocals, and “I’m Not Leaving” is the platonic ideal of a “Beach Boys as 90s power pop” song. It’s not that it’s entirely a Blue Album pastiche—check the screaming in “Dancing Shoes” that notes that the Rival Schools homage in the album art isn’t for nothing, for one. The strutting “Tell That Girl” reminds me of another big 90s power pop group—Sloan—and Tompkins and Twigg have clearly listened to a lot of Superdrag and Matthew Sweet as well. There’s a jangly-ness to songs like album closer “Talk About Love” and “I Don’t Know Why” that doesn’t get in the way of The Trend’s alt-rock leanings, but rather operates alongside it. It’s a short record (22 minutes, eight songs), but not a moment of Sgt. Pepper II is wasted. (Bandcamp link)

Office Culture – Big Time Things

Release date: September 30th
Record label: Northern Spy
Genre: Sophisti-pop, jazz rock, indie pop
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital
Pull track: Big Time Things

Office Culture are a Brooklyn-based four-piece band that’s led by vocalist, songwriter, and keyboardist Winston Cook-Wilson. Over the quartet’s first two records, they’ve cultivated a distinctive sound that pulls from 80s sophisti-pop and jazz fusion, in addition to more modern bands coming from a similar place (namely Kaputt-era Destroyer). Their third record, Big Time Things, is no major departure from that sound, but it does feel like the band is getting comfortable with stretching it and stripping it down to its basic elements (often, the songs are basically just being carried by a simple keyboard part from Cook-Wilson, or melodic bass from Charlie Kaplan). In terms of bands I write about regularly on Rosy Overdrive, it falls somewhere between the “ambient country” era of Friendship and the leisurely pop rock of Personal Space.

Cook-Wilson chooses warm-sounding keyboard tones throughout Big Time Things, which give the record an inviting and comforting sound regardless of where he is at lyrically. This accentuates the moments when the record pushes a little bit out of its groove—the triumphant, string-aided chorus of “Little Reminders”, and the directness with which Cook-Wilson delivers the title line of “Things Were Bad” (“…but they’re better now”). The keyboard is also instrumental in leading off the record, where Cook-Wilson eases us into it with the slow-moving “Suddenly”, which is maybe the most in-the-zone moment on Big Time Things. The title track offers up a slow but steady drumbeat and memorable keyboard hook—the left-turn is in the lyrics, where all of this is to emphasize Cook-Wilson (aided by Carmen Q. Rothwell and Caitlin Pasko’s backing vocals) saying “Stop, I feel nervous”. Big Time Things is expansive enough to contain whatever Cook-Wilson has on his mind throughout the record. (Bandcamp link)

Kolb – Tyrannical Vibes

Release date: September 30th
Record label: Ramp Local
Genre: Indie pop, experimental pop
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Cruising

Mike Kolb has been a touring member of Water from Your Eyes for several years now, and has self-released a good deal of music under his name in the meantime, but Tyrannical Vibes is something of his formal debut as Kolb. Although it’s the Brooklyn-based songwriter’s last name on the cover of the record, and although Kolb wrote, recorded, and played nearly every instrument (save bass on one song and saxophone) on the album, the vocal contributions of Ani Ivry-Block and Carolyn Hietter make this something other than a typical “solo album”. Ivry-Block and Hietter trade lead vocals with Kolb throughout Tyrannical Vibes, making them as prominent-seeming on the record as Kolb himself.

Tyrannical Vibes is a welcoming but smart pop album, operating in the same sphere as Water from Your Eyes and its members’ side projects (This Is Lorelei, Thanks for Coming), as well as recalling the most recent record from Ivry-Block’s band, Palberta. The record’s most accessible moments are carried by sheer exuberance, like the opening duo of the Kolb-led “Cruising” and Hietter’s saxophone aided-performance in “I Guess I’m Lucky”. Tyrannical Vibes is something of a restless record, playing with post-punk/new wave sounds (“Internal Affairs”, “The Answer”), electronic elements (“Ectoplasm”, “Weather Synchronized”), and R&B (“Jean-Luc”) but hanging on to pop hooks through the various zigs and zags. Kolb’s songwriting strength is on display throughout Tyrannical Vibes, and Ivry-Block and Hietter’s contributions work very well to underline it. (Bandcamp link)

Coughing Dove – You & Me Lee

Release date: September 16th
Record label: Self Aware
Genre: Alt-country, folk rock
Formats: CD, digital
Pull track: You & Me Lee

Coughing Dove is the Charlotte-based project of Nicholas Holman, and his second album under the name and first for Self Aware Records (Late Bloomer, Faye) is a quiet record of folk rock and alt-country that manages to sound both dusty and polished at the same time. With only seven songs, You & Me Lee stretches out a bit, with Holman exploring both straightforward, acoustic folk and expansive cosmic country over 27 minutes.  The first half of You & Me Lee gives us the gently loping “Spoonbender”, which has something of a toe-tapping tempo, and guest vocals from Madison Lucas and Brooke Weeks aiding Holman’s gentle singing, as well as the pedal steel-aided drinking ballad “Lights Go Down at the Bar”, both of which find Coughing Dove putting forth fully-developed, emotional songs that hover around two minutes.

The bulk of You & Me Lee, however, is comprised of the three songs that immediately follow these numbers. The drum-led, beautifully swirling instrumental “Spirit Dance” is the record’s biggest left turn, and then You & Me Lee veers into the seven-minute speak-singing folk rock of “Year of the Year”, which reminds me of everything from Kurt Vile to Bill Callahan to Jeff Tweedy. The title track has a joyousness to it, particularly when Holman delivers the title line as the track winds itself deep into childhood nostalgia. As much as Coughing Dove roam in the back half of You & Me Lee, though, it still feels like a country record—an album-closing cover of Waylon Jennings’ “Dreaming My Dreams with You” isn’t necessary to confirm this, but it’s certainly a welcome and fitting cap to the record. (Bandcamp link)

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