Pressing Concerns: Dear Nora, Mt. Oriander, Puppy Angst, Austin Leonard Jones

It’s a Tuesday, and we’ve got four new records to look at today, by Dear Nora, Mt. Oriander, Puppy Angst, and Austin Leonard Jones. We’ll have four more on Thursday.

If you’re looking for more new music, you can browse previous editions of Pressing Concerns or visit the site directory. If you’d like to support Rosy Overdrive, you can share this (or another) post, or donate here.

Dear Nora – Human Futures

Release date: October 28th
Record label: Orindal
Genre: Indie folk, experimental folk, indie pop
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Shadows

Human Futures is the fifth record under the Dear Nora name, which singer-songwriter Katy Davidson has been using to make music since 1999. It is also, notably, the first album of theirs made in a recording studio, and subsequently features a more collaborative approach between Davidson and the other current members of Dear Nora (drummer Greg Campanile, piano/synth player Nicholas Krgovich, and bassist/drummer/synth player Zach Burba). Davidson still takes the lead and contributes all lyrics and vocal melodies, which results in an accessible but varied experimental pop record that veers between Dear Nora’s recognizable indie folk and some stranger moments.

Human Futures displays its studio origins in the opening of the record—the first two tracks are the bizarre stop-and-start “Scrolls of Doom” and the bright, minimalist narrative synthpop of “Sedona”. Both of these songs work in no small part due to Davidson’s vocal melodies and self-harmonies, which are equally centered in the album’s various musical detours—from the gorgeous folk of the rambling “Shadows”, the piano ballad “Mothers and Daughters”, or the surprising groove of “Flowers Fading”.  Davidson’s lyrics also work towards connecting the various moods of Human Futures. Their original home state of Arizona is all over the record, from Lake Havasu and Tucson in “Shadows” to the title town of “Sedona” and eatery in “Sinaloan Restaurant”.

As much as Arizona factors into Human Futures, the record isn’t stuck in one place, either—traveling and transience also factor heavily into the album (hotels pop up multiple times, and one of the songs is called “Airbnb Cowboy”).  It serves the purpose of reminiscing (“Five Months on the Go”, in which Davidson’s family travels from San Francisco to El Paso to across an ocean, sees hoodoo goblins, and eats disappointing pizza) or is very much meant in the present tense (“Shadows”, which contains the realization “What was once America is now just a place to drive”). Towards the end of the record, Davidson quietly sings “I think I know it all, but I don’t know,” in “Flag (Into the Fray)”—Human Futures covers more than enough ground to shine a light on everything we all don’t know. (Bandcamp link)

Mt. Oriander – Then the Lightness Leaves and I Become Heavy Again

Release date: October 21st
Record label: Count Your Lucky Stars/Friend Club
Genre: Midwest emo, slowcore
Formats: Vinyl, cassette, digital
Pull track: Lilliput Steps

Keith Latinen has done more than enough to make his mark on emo music between running Count Your Lucky Stars Records and his time in Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate).  2021 found Latinen asserting he still had more to say, however, debuting a new band in Parting and a new solo project, Mt. Oriander. Latinen introduced Mt. Oriander with the appropriately low-key This Is Not the Way I Wanted You to Find Out EP, a record that emphasized the project’s downcast, slowcore-influenced side. Coming almost exactly a year later, Then the Lightness Leaves and I Become Heavy Again, the debut LP from Mt. Oriander, appropriately feels like a bigger and grander statement. It’s more wide-ranging—at times it’s louder in a way more reminiscent of Parting, while songs like “A Drawing of a Bird You Have Never Seen Before” wouldn’t have been out of place on the debut EP.

Then the Lightness Leaves and I Become Heavy Again begins as fully as possible—“What We Have Is You”, the record’s first non-instrumental song, tumbles out of the starting gate with Midwest emo horns and math rock riffs, and the sturdy alt-rock background of “We Measure Our Distance in Time” rises and falls under Latinen’s voice. Latinen’s distinct, eternally youthful-sounding vocals sound as good as ever leaping from world-weary to on-the-brink-emotional from song to song, and one can tell he’s re-energized even without “We Should Get Out of Here Before Something Goes Terribly Wrong!”, an autobiographical story of how Latinen dug himself out of the ashes of the end of his last band to become an active singer-songwriter again.

Then the Lightness Leaves… is compelling throughout; later track “Lilliput Steps” finds Latinen in less-is-more mode, as guitar leads drift in and out of the bass-driven song. Guest vocalists and musicians pop up throughout the record, perhaps most prominently in the last two songs: Brian Carley’s voice on the dramatic-building “We Are Not in This Alone”, and Elliott Green’s in the final exhale of “You Don’t Have to Keep Trying Anymore”. Between the appearances of Latinen’s peers and the range of musical styles, a lot of what’s special about Then the Lightness Leaves… is right there in those two final tracks. (Bandcamp link)

Puppy Angst – Scorpio Season

Release date: October 24th
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Indie rock, dream pop, power pop
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Yellow Paint

Philadelphia four-piece band Puppy Angst have a sound that’s an amalgamation of reverb-heavy, cranked up guitars, the emotional vocals and lyrics of frontperson Alyssa Milman, and plenty of pop hooks. Their debut full-length record, Scorpio Season, subsequently has one foot in both the hazy shoegaze/dream pop and emo/indie punk sides of their city’s music scene (and indeed, the various members’ pedigrees reflect this dichotomy, having played with everyone from Kississippi to Alex G). Frequently, the songs on Scorpio Season begin with a somewhat subdued dreamy rock instrumental, and then simply get louder and bigger as they go. Milman is an unafraid and commanding singer, and even in the most reverb-heavy moments of the record, Scorpio Season correctly places their voice front and center.

Puppy Angst really go for it early on in the record with the hard-charging power pop punk of single “Yellow Paint”, with both Milman’s vocals and the rest of the band soaring and also featuring a ripping guitar solo. The synth-colored “In Sensitivity” and “Bedhead” start off less overtly noisy before adding plenty of in-the-red fuzz and, for the latter, a big, multi-layered finale featuring impressive bass work from John Heywood. “Bedhead”’s giant sound contrasts with Milman’s lethargy-inspired lyrics—Milman’s writing rarely gets lost among the loudness. Their performance comes to a head in the frantic “Eternal (Stream of Consciousness)”, in which Milman delivers an increasingly unmoored spoken word vocal over a boiling instrumental. Scorpio Season then ends with one last all-in pop statement, “The Pattern”—and one last moment of realism from Milman, who repeats “I keep repeating all the patterns / I’m in a loop of my bad habits,” eternally as the rest of the band act out this circular motion with them. (Bandcamp link)

Austin Leonard Jones – Dead Calm

Release date: July 29th
Record label: Perpetual Doom
Genre: Country rock, singer-songwriter, folk rock
Formats: Vinyl, cassette, digital
Pull track: Don’t Cry Sylvio

Austin Leonard Jones is a Texas-based singer-songwriter whose latest record, Dead Calm, both evokes its title and finds some intriguing depths behind its titular sentiment. Jones and his band have clearly taken inspiration from traditional country music; every song on the record features prominent pedal steel and Jones’ gentle crooning vocals. Jones’ songwriting is too potent to get bogged down in any kind of stale reverence, however.

Early highlight “Night Parrots” drives forwards cautiously but confidently, with Jones suggesting “Pick yourself back up and move along,” amidst lyrics populated by golf courses, Cadillacs, drug dealers and someone getting shot “right between the balls”. “The Australia Song” alone is responsible for knocking Dead Calm out of the past and into the present day, with Jones weaving an autobiographical, sung-spoken tale about traveling through the titular continent and being disillusioned by songwriters who’d rather cosplay decades past to the point of becoming a “weak and watered-down Ian MacKaye” than forge ahead.

Jones can be a witty songwriter, to be sure, but that doesn’t detract from the rest of his craft on Dead Calm. When he hits the chorus of “Don’t Cry Sylvio”, it’s as moving as any country ballad one could name, and his humble declaration that “My life has been exotic after all” in “Exotics” is delivered with the pure sincerity (and an organ as punctuation, as well) that it needs to fully blossom. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

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