Pressing Concerns: Delivery, The Sonora Pine, The Rutabega, Garb

Delivery – Forever Giving Handshakes

Release date: November 11th
Record label: Feel It/Spoilsport/Anti Fade
Genre: Garage rock, garage punk
Formats: Vinyl, cassette, digital
Pull track: Baader Meinhof

The latest export from the fertile Australian garage punk scene, Melbourne’s Delivery are a five-piece group that, prior to Forever Giving Handshakes, only had a couple of singles to their name. Despite being a relatively new band, their debut full-length record sounds sharp and well-honed with a live-in-studio feel, reflective of the heavy gigging the quintet have done over the past year and a half. The range of Forever Giving Handshakes is also notable—a garage rock record where every song isn’t the same two-minute screed, it contains synths without it falling cleanly under “synthpunk” and offers up power pop and post-punk moments without either tipping the scales. Adding to the variety on the record, all the band’s members sing—even drummer Daniel Devlin is credited with backing vocals.

The first three songs on Forever Giving Handshakes sketch out the full spectrum of Delivery—the record opens on a surprisingly deft note with the tension-building group chant of “Picture This”, lets loose into a vintage garage rock ripper in “Poor-to-Middling Moneymaking”, and brings out a big synth-hook-featuring power pop single in “Baader Meinhof”. Delivery keep the energy high throughout—there’s no slouching throughout the midsection of Forever Giving Handshakes, which hops through the bass-led, spoke-sung stomp of “No Homes”, the spaghetti-punk strut of “The Complex”, and the giant-sounding “Lifetimer”. Nor does the back end of the record peter out, featuring a couple stretching-out moments in “Born Second” and closing track “Best Western”. Brevity is typically the name of the game when it comes to this kind of music—Delivery absolutely did not have to turn in a forty-minute record with little-to-no fat on it for their debut record to be a success, but that’s what Forever Giving Handshakes is. (Bandcamp link)

The Sonora Pine – II (2022 Remaster)

Release date: November 11th
Record label: Husky Pants/Touch & Go
Genre: Slowcore, 90s indie rock, post-rock
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Long Ago Boy

The Sonora Pine rose from the ashes of Louisville post-rock group Rodan after their 1995 dissolution, formed from half of that band’s final lineup (bassist/vocalist Tara Jane O’Neil and drummer Kevin Coultas) with the addition of violinist Samara Lubelski and guitarist Sean Meadows. As hinted at by that lineup, The Sonora Pine veered hard away from the occasionally scorching post-hardcore side of Rodan and instead probed the empty spaces in between—something that became even more true on their second and final record, made after the departure of Meadows. Originally put out by Quarterstick, the especially spooky sub-label of Touch & Go Records, Ryley Walker’s Husky Pants Records and Touch & Go have remastered and re-pressed II twenty-five years after its 1997 release.

O’Neil handles all guitar duties on II, and while she had already amassed a notable discography between Rodan and The Sonora Pine’s self-titled debut, her playing on this record goes a long way towards cementing her place as the indie rock elder she is today. The songs on II stretch themselves out confidently, rising and falling while O’Neil’s guitar and Lubelski’s violin twist around each other. Songs like “Weak Kneed” and “Baby Come Home” are incredibly restrained, forcing the listener to train their full attention on the two string instruments’ interplay, O’Neil’s vocals fading in and out in the former and disappearing entirely in the latter.

Not everything on II is that stark, but it’s still by and large music in which to get completely lost. The two most rousing moments on II are the opening and closing tracks; the multipart “Eek” features prominent drum work from Coultas, while the eight-minute finale of “Linda Jo” finds O’Neil and Lubelski building an aural ladder to pull the listener out of II’s foggy valley interior before floating off at the end. (Bandcamp link)

The Rutabega – Leading Up To

Release date: October 28th
Record label: Comedy Minus One
Genre: 90s indie rock, power pop, emo-rock
Formats: Vinyl, CD, cassette, digital
Pull track: Fences

The Rutabega is a South Bend, Indiana indie rock duo featuring the talents of singer-songwriter/guitarist Joshua Hensley and drummer Garth Mason. Hensley began self-releasing music as The Rutabega twenty years ago; Leading Up To is the second Rutabega record on Comedy Minus One (Silkworm, Eleventh Dream Day, Hurry Up) and first record under the name since 2016. Hensley’s songwriting and vocal delivery are open-hearted and delicate, and he and Mason blow these cores up with winding, adventurous guitar playing and pounding percussion. Leading Up To is an album made by the kind of band whose frontman who would record a Fountains of Wayne tribute EP and also be associated with the Steve Albini-originating PRF scene.

Leading Up To opens with a pair of sharp guitar pop tunes in the soaring “Plague” and the head-shaking “Fences”—both of them would be the “single track” on most records of this ilk, but the chorus of “Angles” a few tracks later arguably outshines both of them. One doesn’t have to wait too long in the record before The Rutabega show their headier side, however—the five-minute tension-building “Unsilent” really taps into something primal, and even that doesn’t prepare one for the ten-minute “Gone”, which repeats the title line over an oceanic instrumental in a transcendent way. The first five songs on Leading Up To are so strong that the last few tracks risk getting outshone, but there are surprises there, too—the dark groove, handclaps, and Hensley falsetto of “Barely” make it the weirdest song on the record, for one. There’s more than enough on Leading Up To to make it a substantial record all the way through. (Bandcamp link)

Garb – Stiff As a Feather

Release date: September 9th
Record label: Candlepin
Genre: 90s indie rock
Formats: Digital
Pull track: Shatter / Photoshop

Cathedral City, California’s Garb are a quartet that, like several other bands on their label home of Candlepin Records, probe the dusty and downcast corners of 90s indie rock. I wrote about the Poorly Drawn House record from Candlepin earlier this year; Garb’s sophomore record is less like that band’s haunted post-rock and more of an amalgamation of Duster-esque spacey slowcore, Grandaddy bummer pop, and sprawling, Modest Mouse-esque rural Western indie rock. Stiff As a Feather sees Garb transitioning from the solo project of M. Carrick O’Dowd to a collaborative, full-band sound with the ability to pull off the lengthy instrumental passages and soundscapes that shade the album.

Stiff As a Feather traffics in grounded but frayed indie rock, as evidenced by early tracks like the distant-yet-also-up-close-sounding “Comatose (Nothing Matters When I’m with You)” and the subtle but melodic instrumental of “Rotting in the Garden”. The straightforward, pop-Doug Martsch opening of “Shatter / Photoshop” is somewhat jarring coming after those songs, but it too drifts off eventually. The rest of the record travels through both lengthy indie rock journeys (“Tooth + Nail”, the final couple of tracks), and more straightforward slowcore-adjacent 90s indie rock tunes (“Birds”, “Mallard”). Garb come off engaged and focused throughout Stiff As a Feather, sounding as weary and beaten-down as the music requires, but never lethargic. (Bandcamp link)

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