Pressing Concerns: Cash Langdon, Cozy Slippers, Picastro, Say Sue Me

The second Pressing Concerns of the week looks at two albums that come out on Friday, October 14th (Cash Langdon and Cozy Slippers), and two different covers EPs (Picastro and Say Sue Me).

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Cash Langdon – Sinister Feeling

Release date: October 14th
Record label: Earth Libraries
Genre: Folk rock, psych pop, power pop
Formats: CD, cassette, digital
Pull track: That Kid

I’d previously been aware of Cash Langdon as one half of the D.C./Baltimore shoegaze-ish noise pop duo Caution (along with vocalist Nora Button), although Langdon (who’s now moved back to his native Birmingham, Alabama) has dabbled in everything from power pop to straight-up electronica. Sinister Feeling seems to be Langdon’s first full-length under his own name, and it’s a more singer-songwriter-based effort that takes inspiration from Langdon’s return to his home state of Alabama. The album does feel like Langdon embracing his version of southern music, even if it’s not the “stereotypical” variety—I hear the power pop of Big Star and Alex Chilton’s solo work, the jangly college rock of bands like The Windbreakers and Primitons, and the breezier parts of the Elephant Six collective in Sinister Feeling.

Although Sinister Feeling is loosely a folk rock record, it retains the pop sensibilities that shone through the reverb of Caution and the rock band setup of Saturday Night. “That Kid” opens the record with a sweet, jangly sound, and Langdon’s vocals deliver a gorgeous melody. The power pop strut of “Ten” doesn’t feel out of place on the record, with Langdon’s voice shifting only slightly to match the soaring alt-rock of the track—it sits nicely along the indie pop stroll of “Birds” and the rambling southern rock of “Magic Earth”. “Hate Is an Object” swirls through trippy psychedelic folk rock, practically ascending in its second half. The rockier songs on Sinister Feeling are the immediate attention-grabbers, but the record is balanced by acoustic ballads “Dichotomy” and “Etowah”, and mid-tempo melodic vessels like “Hearts Feel Wild” and “A Certain Place”. It equals out to a complete-sounding, smartly-written pop record. (Bandcamp link)

Cozy Slippers – Cozy Slippers

Release date: October 14th
Record label: Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten/Subjangle
Genre: Indie pop, jangle pop
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital
Pull track: Bee Sting

The debut full-length from Cozy Slippers has been several years in the making—their first EP came out in 2017, and I wrote about a song that ended up on this record when it was initially released as a single last May—and they’ve put together an indie pop record that pulls from several distinct guitar pop groups and genres but still sounds confident and original in its own right. Vocalists Barbara Barrilleaux and Sarah Engel are prominent throughout the record, allowing the hooks shine through the already-sunny instrumentals. Cozy Slippers recalls the cleanest and most melodic moments from college rock like The Sundays, American indie rock like The Spinanes and Velocity Girl, and the polished end of twee like Heavenly.

Album opener “Haunting Her” and second track “When Will When Come” both feature something of low-key, laid-back verses before shifting into explosive pop choruses—impressive bass work is not frequently something that sticks out in this kind of music, but both songs have that working in their favor. “Underneath Us All the Time” and “Boat House” add bright power chords somewhat subtly to the jangling guitar and Engel and Barrilleaux’s harmonies; “Remi”’s secret weapon is a mid-tempo, jaunty acoustic guitar. It’s hard to pick a single defining feature for a song like “Bee Sting”, which just sounds natural and hits the nostalgic beat at its center perfectly. By the time the album gets to the curious synth wash-led closing track “First a Girl”, it feels like its earned a subdued moment. (Bandcamp link)

Picastro – I’ve Never Met a Stranger

Release date: January 7th (digital)/October 7th (cassette)
Record label: Stoned to Death
Genre: Slowcore, folk rock
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Hangman

Quietly flying under the radar for the entirety of this century, Toronto’s Picastro have been making stark, beautiful slowcore music marked by the distinct vocals of singer/guitarist Liz Hysen, who is the one person who appears consistently on the group’s latest record. I’ve Never Met a Stranger was self-released by the band at the beginning of the year, and the five-song EP of cover songs has been given a recent cassette release by Czech label Stoned to Death Records. All songs on the record have Picastro’s sprawling folk-orchestral instrumental sound—with one exception, the five songs chosen by the band to cover here are fairly obscure, but I feel confident in saying that Hysen and her collaborators have put their own spin on these tracks.

Opening track “Hangman” (originally by Fire on Fire) is probably the sparest track on the EP, a hauntingly simple tune that really lets the refrain from Hysen (“Even the worst of men has friends / Even the hangman has friends”) impact the listener. The band trend a little bit towards more traditional folk rock with “Tell Me White Horses” (The Slit) and “Man Has Been Struck Down by Hands Unseen” (Richard Dawson, whose loose-fitting songwriting style suits the band well). The one recognizable song on I’ve Never Met a Stranger is its centerpiece, a seven-minute version of The Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes”, which feels like it needs its whole time to both pay tribute to the pop nature of the original song and give it a Picastro-style feel—a wholly welcome addition. (Bandcamp link)

Say Sue Me – 10

Release date: October 10th
Record label: Damnably/Beach Town
Genre: 90s indie rock, shoegaze, noise pop
Formats: Digital
Pull track: Season of the Shark

Let’s do a second covers EP in this edition—why not? Busan, South Korea’s Say Sue Me have been having a 2022 to remember—they released their third record, The Last Thing Left, in May, they’re touring North America, and it’s the tenth anniversary of their formation as a band. Their eight-song 10 EP is a victory lap of sorts that updates two older Say Sue Me songs and also features six covers—and, unlike the Picastro EP discussed above, all of these songs will likely be familiar to Rosy Overdrive’s core demographic. If their 90s indie rock influences weren’t abundantly clear from their original material, 10 makes it even more explicit—indie royalty Yo La Tengo, Pavement, Guided by Voices, Grandaddy, Silver Jews, and Daniel Johnston comprise Say Sue Me’s selections for the EP.

Even though they’ve effectively chosen indie rock standards to cover, 10 doesn’t feel redundant thanks to Say Sue Me’s fresh reading on these songs. The EP opens with two rockers—an inspired take on Yo La Tengo’s “Season of the Shark” from the under-discussed Summer Sun record that reimagines it as one of the band’s “Sugarcube”-esque fuzz pop numbers, and a pop punk reading of their own “Bad Habit”. The one other song they shift into “ripper” status is, surprisingly, Silver Jews’ “Honk If You’re Lonely”—and just as surprisingly, it works. Because this isn’t just “punk goes 90s Matador Records bands”, 10 also goes the other way, turning Pavement and Grandaddy songs into slow, jazz- and bossa nova-influenced tunes, and ending with an acoustic version of Guided by Voices’ “Smothered in Hugs”, instead of taking the obvious route and embracing the original’s basement-shoegaze sound—one last fresh read. (Bandcamp link)

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