Pressing Concerns: Nervous Twitch, The Intelligence, Air Devi, Fat Randy

Welcome to the first Pressing Concerns of October! In a nice mixture of pop and weirdo music, we’re looking at new albums from Nervous Twitch, The Intelligence, and Fat Randy, and a new EP from Air Devi. We’re coming off the September Rosy Overdrive playlist that went up on Monday this week–there’s a lot more new music I haven’t gotten to in Pressing Concerns to explore there.

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

Nervous Twitch – Some People Never Change

Release date: October 5th
Record label: Reckless Yes
Genre: Indie pop, power pop
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital
Pull track: The History of the Wild West

On their fifth album since 2015, Leeds’ Nervous Twitch offer up thirteen tracks of energetic guitar pop that contain shades of punk, new wave, twee, girl group and garage rock, adding up to a record that feels eternally catchy and breezy without sacrificing on substance. Lead singer Erin Hyde’s vocals are clear and melodic throughout Some People Never Change, sounding completely comfortable with the spotlight, and her bass work is frequently just as prominent and key to the sound of the album. The rest of the band (guitarist/songwriter Jay Churchley and drummer Ashley Goodall) are instrumental in developing the shape of Some People Never Change—an indie pop record that sounds made by a real, solid rock band. The trio’s abilities are on full display in the runaway train of an opening track, “The History of the Wild West”, which is indie pop punk at its finest—but it reveals just one facet of the record.

Nervous Twitch aren’t afraid to be simple, like in “You Never Let Me Down”, in which the trio let Hyde’s vocals (successfully) do the bulk of selling the song, or in the acoustic “This Mad at the World” and the slowly-unfolding closing track “Snowball”. On the other hand, “It’s Going to Be OK” adds a few more layers (a surprisingly noticeable organ part in the chorus and a showy bass groove) for maximum 60s revival impact, and single “Forgive Yourself” uses all five minutes of its runtime for melodic perfection, from the dramatic bass-led introduction to the triumphant guitar leads that close the track. Hyde remains a compelling vocalist throughout Some People Never Change, selling the scolding “More Than Enough Warning”, the emotionally knotted “Forgive Yourself”, and the sneering fuzz rock “If You Don’t Wanna Know Me (I’m Happy on My Own)” equally well—no element of Some People Never Change is shortchanged by these pop tunesmiths. (Bandcamp link)

The Intelligence – Lil’ Peril

Release date: September 30th
Record label: Mt.St.Mtn./Vapid Moonlighting
Genre: Garage rock, experimental rock, synthpunk
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: My Work Here Is Dumb

The Intelligence has been the long-running Seattle-originating, California-based project of the prolific Lars Finberg, and with the band’s eleventh album Lil’ Peril, they continue to occupy a unique, dynamic position within the frequently limiting world of garage punk. The record’s nine songs flirt with synths and electronics, hit as hard as anything in the rhythm section, and play with minimalism and open space in a way that reflects Finberg’s dub influences. I don’t want to say that Lil’ Peril sounds like a Game Theory album—it’s still clearly more of a warped San Francisco garage rock record than a warped college rock/power pop record—but it shares a conviction not to be bogged down in its main genre’s noted orthodoxy.

Lil’ Peril is loosely a pop record in its first half before giving way to some of Finberg’s more out-there ideas in its second, but there’s plenty of overlap going on throughout the album. The self-aware fractured glam rock of “70’s” has an undeniable garage rock hook, and “Maudlin Agency” and lead single “Keyed Beamers” let uncanny synths lead their most memorable moments before giving way to guitar- and saxophone-led endings. Centerpiece “My Work Here Is Dumb” is probably the most “traditional” garage rock song on the album, even as it stomps and twitches its way to a creepy ambient outro. The last four tracks of Lil’ Peril sound like the first half of the album put into a blender—if you can hang with it, the sung-spoken second half of “Portfolio Woes” and the eight-minute kraut-inspired trip of “Soundguys” are your rewards. “If I left them puzzled, that would leave me pleased /And I’d remain a mystery, tugging my own sleeve,” Finberg declares in the latter—I’d say mission accomplished. (Bandcamp link)

Air Devi – Rooting for You

Release date: October 7th
Record label: Devil Town Tapes
Genre: Indie pop, jangle pop, dream pop
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Rooting for You

Air Devi is a Philadelphia four-piece band led by singer-songwriter, guitarist, and sitarist Devi Majeske, and rounded out by guitarist/trumpeter Jacob Hershman, drummer Jay Fein, and bassist Seth Fein. Majeske’s group has put out a handful of singles and EPs over the past few years, and their latest, the Rooting for You cassette EP, sounds like a band that’s honed in on “their” sound—in this case, melancholic, bittersweet jangly indie rock that incorporates Majeske’s background in Indian classical music in a seamless manner, occasionally obviously but just as frequently in a subtle manner.

Upbeat album opener “Ashrita” most prominently incorporates Majeske’s sitar playing, letting it jump right into the middle of an infectious indie pop song about taking inspiration from her musical peers and influences (the titular “Ashrita” is Ahrita Kumar from Pinkshift). The violin (provided by Siddharth Ashokkumar) on “Dharti”, along with Majeske’s particularly stretched vocals, also take the song beyond its dream pop core. The songs on the EP that hew more towards “standard” indie rock differentiate themselves pleasingly as well. This is aided by elements like the trumpet in the yearning title track, the synths washing over the soaring “Fatal Flaw”, and the sparse acoustic route taken by closing track “It’s Over” that hearkens back to the project’s bedroom pop roots—adding up to a well-rounded five-song collection. (Bandcamp link)

Fat Randy – Slow, Incremental Change

Release date: October 3rd
Record label: Little Miss Clackamas
Genre: Avant-prog, math rock, noise rock, post-hardcore
Formats: Digital
Pull track: Connecticut

Fat Randy doesn’t seem interested in making it easy for you. That’s true musically of the Connecticut- and Boston-based band’s latest record, Slow, Incremental Change—the album’s ten songs are a heady mix of jazz- and prog-influenced indie rock which contain plenty of the left turns inherent in those genres. It’s also true of the subject matter of Slow, Incremental Change—for instance, after an instrumental intro, the band dive directly into “Walgreens”, a song about the greed that drives the opioid crisis and pulls no punches in its description.

Vocalist Stephen Friedland’s preoccupations grow no lighter from that point. In album centerpiece “Smarter Child”, saxophones and grunge-y alt-rock fight for control underneath Friedland’s lyrics, in which images of pain, needles, and hell flash, and the record’s closing trio of songs up the heaviness for a particularly harrowing noise rock finish (seven-minute closing track “I’m Going to Do It” is the most impressive, but the hypnotic “Soup for My Family” might be the best). Still, Slow, Incremental Change is anything but grey and overly-serious— the bouncy “Connecticut” is prog-pop at its finest, and “Steve Jobs Didn’t Believe in Charity and Used to Double-Park in Handicapped Spaces” shows that even when Friedland has overarching ideas to deliver, he’s still finding amusing and interesting ways to say them. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

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