Pressing Concerns: Ovens, Heavy Mother, Smug Brothers, Gabriel Bernini

It’s mid-December, but I’ve still got new music to talk about in Pressing Concerns! Well, one of these is technically old music–today looks at a reissue from Tony Molina’s old band, Ovens, as well as new albums from Heavy Mother and Gabriel Bernini and a new EP from Smug Brothers. Rosy Overdrive’s Top 25 EPs of 2022 went up earlier this week, and the rest of the year will feature the reissue/compilation list (probably after Christmas) and one final edition of Pressing Concerns (probably early next week).

If you’re looking for more new music, you can visit the site directory to see what else we’ve written about lately. If you’d like to support Rosy Overdrive, you can share this (or another) post, or donate here (one fun thing that’s happened since I last wrote one of these is I’ve gotten laid off from my job, just in time for the holidays, so….)..

Ovens – Ovens (Vinyl Reissue)

Release date: December 2nd
Record label: Tankcrimes
Genre: Power pop, psych pop, alt-rock, lo-fi indie rock
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull Track: Punch You in the Face

Ovens is the birthplace of Tony Molina. Although I haven’t gotten around to covering the singer-songwriter’s solo career yet on Rosy Overdrive, he certainly fits right in around here: his discography is full of fuzzy power pop and psych pop in extremely short, digestible servings. Effectively every alley that Molina would eventually wander down in his solo records is present on Ovens–which I guess is not that surprising, as the self-titled Ovens album (originally released on CD in 2009) offers up 44 songs and an hour’s worth of strong guitar pop. More than an interesting early artifact, there are more than enough gems on Ovens to make this as key a part of Molina’s oeuvre as anything the Northern California musician has released since.

Ovens has two main modes that they meld together eagerly on their only release: loud and fuzzy power pop/alt-rock that evokes Weezer and Dinosaur Jr. with its triumphant guitar heroics, and an enthusiastic, jaunty acoustic pop sound that reminds me of early Of Montreal. With as many songs as Ovens contains, it’s a bit difficult to highlight every one that falls into either category, but tracks like “Same Shit Different Day”, “Punch You in the Face”, and “Everything’s the Same” kick up 90s alt-rock and grunge in their pursuit of heavy power pop, and the acoustic psych pop of songs like “Castillejo Scene” and “Song for Friends” show off Ovens’ Elephant Six side.

Not every song on Ovens falls cleanly into one of those categories, however–Molina and crew set the stage early on in “Fired from the Vogue Pt. 2”, where the song’s acoustic skeleton is doodled over with showy, over-the-top guitar soloing. As Ovens flies by, songs like “Lame Song #224” and “Waste of Time” also can’t commit to either quiet or loud, as well–there’s simply too much for Ovens to do, and only an hour and forty-four songs to get it done. (Bandcamp link)

Heavy Mother – This Time Around

Release date: December 16th
Record label: Feel It
Genre: Garage rock, proto-punk, garage punk
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull Track: I Know There’s No Answer

The latest (and final release from 2022) from Feel It Records is a scorching garage rock/proto-punk-inspired album straight out of Bloomington, Indiana. The four-piece band Heavy Mother is led by a real rock and roll veteran in Eddie Flowers, most notable for fronting 1970s Indiana punk group The Gizmos–in Heavy Mother, he’s backed by some newer faces, including a couple members of Bloomington Feel It staple The Cowboys (and, of, all things, a former member of Circuit Des Yeux–I guess the Bloomington scene is probably pretty small). Heavy Mother describe themselves as simply a rock and roll band, and their debut record, This Time Around, does anything but disappoint in this front.  

Heavy Mother rip through fifteen tracks of pure garage rock that include standards like “Leavin’ Here” (originally written by Holland/Dozier/Holland and made famous by Motörhead) and “Louie Louie”–but This Time Around’s originals hold their own against the likes of these. Songs like opening track “I Know There’s No Answer” and “Eenie Meenie” feel ageless and incredibly energetic throughout. Even on the slower songs, This Time Around is amp-cranked to remind you of your favorite 70s Midwestern pre-punk fuzz rock group–at least, when they aren’t offering up the very much not timeless “Dicks in Space!”, a brief tune about everyone’s favorite billionaires taking a joyride out of this planet. It’s certainly not the best song on the album, but it’s in the spirit of This Time Around–fun and off-the-cuff. (Bandcamp link)

Smug Brothers – Emerald Lemonade

Release date: December 9th
Record label: Gas Daddy Go
Genre: Lo-fi indie rock, power pop
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull Track: Pablo Icarus

Smug Brothers are not exactly indie rock superstars, but the Ohio four-piece band contains plenty to recommend for a certain lo-fi-devoted subset of the genre. Led by prolific singer/songwriter/guitarist Kyle Melton and also featuring onetime Guided by Voices drummer Don Thrasher and Columbus scene stalwart Kyle Sowash, Smug Brothers make the kind of bite-size, Robert Pollard-esque irreverent guitar pop that one might expect from their pedigree. Their latest record, the Emerald Lemonade cassette EP, highlights both the weird and the accessible side of Melton’s songwriting–there’s no shortage of melodies here, but, at seven songs and thirteen minutes, there’s plenty of “blink and you’ll miss it” moments as well.

Emerald Lemonade offers up multiple sides to Smug Brothers early on–the first three songs contain the crystal-clear guitar pop of “Midnight Tomorrow”, the busy, murky noise-pop of “Later Is Quad”, and opening track “Pablo Icarus”, which splits the difference with a charming melody delivered with a full-band sharpness. The second half of Emerald Lemonade particularly ups the skewed pop quotient, with a couple of one-minute tunes that are certainly catchy but don’t hold one’s hand in showing it (“Winter Swimmers”, “Aardvark Fusion”). Although the EP certainly has a lo-fi feel, it’s not minimalist–synths and jangly guitar leads populate these songs in a chaotic but catchy way, much like the rest of Emerald Lemonade’s ingredients. (Bandcamp link)

Gabriel Bernini – Up on a Hill

Release date: December 2nd
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Folk rock, piano rock, singer-songwriter
Formats: Digital
Pull Track: Up on a Hill

Gabriel Bernini has been a prolific folk rocker the last few years, making records both in his home state of Massachusetts and his current location of Los Angeles; Up on a Hill follows 2021’s You Got Me by about a year and a month. His newest album is still recognizably Bernini, with his relaxed vocals leading a stripped-down version of a sound that evokes 1970s singer-songwriter records, although one noticeable difference that Up on a Hill brings is that Bernini has moved to the piano for more of these tracks than his previous fare.

Bernini is adept enough at piano-first songwriting to try on a few different styles on Up on a Hill; he still writes bouncy, jaunty, poppy folk songs like “Hooked on Emotion”, “Love to Be Loved”, and “Man with No Head”, for one. The record has a couple of ballads, too—Bernini doesn’t overuse this mode, but these songs mark both the center (“Falling Again”) and end (“Harmony”) of Up on a Hill. Not everything is completely piano-centric, however; it has a presence but is merely one player in songs like “On Your Dial” and “To Know You”, and the title track is built off of a simple but pleasing guitar riff. All eleven of these songs end up falling well within Bernini’s folk rock wheelhouse, but the different touches help fill out Up on a Hill. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

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