Pressing Concerns: Beauty Pill, Moscow Puzzles, Florry, The Drin

Welcome to another Pressing Concerns. Today, we have new albums from Moscow Puzzles and The Drin, a new EP from Florry, and a reissue from Beauty Pill to discuss.

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Beauty Pill – Blue Period

Release date: January 20th
Record label: Ernest Jenning Record Co.
Genre: Experimental indie rock, post-punk
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull Track: You Are Right to Be Afraid

In 2004, Beauty Pill put out The Unsustainable Lifestyle, the first full-length record from Chad Clark since the dissolution of his previous band, the critically-acclaimed Dischord group Smart Went Crazy. The Unsustainable Lifestyle retained many of the great qualities that marked the final Smart Went Crazy album, Con Art, while at the same time establishing Beauty Pill as a separate and unique entity–it received rave reviews from many notable music publications and sold extremely well. It should be noted, however, that this success came about twenty years later, when it was included as part of Blue Period, a compilation made up of the first Beauty Pill album, 2003’s You Are Right to Be Afraid EP, and a few outtakes and demos. The record’s contemporary reception isn’t really worth getting into here.

To me, The Unsustainable Lifestyle is up there with Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are, the band’s triumphant 2015 comeback album (and both of them are up there with the justly-beloved Con Art). The record doesn’t hold one’s hand, sure, but giving yourself over to the music (a worthwhile endeavor in most cases, and particularly in the case of an artist who had already made and would continue to make great records) reveals a lot. “Goodnight for Real” makes a fuss about turning its back on you, but Clark’s “There’s only so much oxygen” is, in its own way, a surging chorus. Co-lead vocalist Rachel Burke adds another dimension to the band’s sound; her stoic delivery in “Lifeguard in Wintertime” (by my metrics, one of the heaviest songs ever to come out on a Dischord release) is key, and the exuberant “Such Large Portions!” and the weary “I’m Just Gonna Close My Eyes for a Second” land impressively far off from each other in no small part due to her voice.

The other half of Blue Period is split between You Are Right to Be Afraid and a half-dozen previously-unreleased recordings. The former is a smaller-stakes release than The Unsustainable Lifestyle, but its peaks (the title track, a rocker that sounds like nothing else Beauty Pill ever did even as the strutting chorus hits the familiar “dread” notes, and “You, Yes You”, a spare, vulnerable song that rivals “Prison Song”, The Unsustainable Lifestyle’s champion of this) are no less high. The unearthed, new-to-us material is a nice mix; in particular, the alternate version of “This Is the Hidden Track”, a very good song from 2001’s The Cigarette Girl from the Future EP, is welcome, and “I Don’t Live Today” joins the Beauty Pill repertoire of song “studies”, being a take on the Jimi Hendrix song of the same name. And the towering “Fugue State Companion”, which doesn’t exactly sound like most of the songs from this period and yet feels like it would’ve fit well on either of the original records, is worth it on its own. It’s far from being on its own on Blue Period, however; here, it’s one more great song from an era finally getting its due. (Bandcamp link)

Moscow Puzzles – Cicadas Are Sensitive to Parallel Lines

Release date: January 13th
Record label: 5cm Recordings
Genre: Math rock, post-rock, noise rock
Formats: CD, digital
Pull Track: Radix

Instrumental duo Moscow Puzzles come from Iowa City, Iowa, and the band (drummer Tony Andrys and guitarist Tobin Hoover) make the kind of barebones, basement-friendly post-rock that’s befitting of such a lineup. Their debut full-length record, Cicadas Are Sensitive to Parallel Lines, is five songs’ worth of lengthy jams that feel indebted to 90s indie labels like Thrill Jockey and Quarterstick, and Moscow Puzzles sound invigorated whether they’re exploring their louder, noisier side or probing into something sounding a bit more subtle and intricate. Opening track “Radix” is the only song on Cicadas Are Sensitive to Parallel Lines that doesn’t break the seven-minute mark (it’s an easy four-and-a-half), and it’s Moscow Puzzles at their most “noise rock”, pulling together a swirling, Unwound-esque riff with some distortion and a pounding drumbeat.

The rest of the record has louder moments, but typically contained as one movement in a series of several per song; “Channel Nine”, for instance, reaches a loud, rocking conclusion, but not before spending several minutes building a power-duo version of Tortoise-esque clock-ticking post-rock and then stepping it all up. Closing track “North/Northwest” is the other song on the record that more or less follows the “build-up” structure, ending Cicadas Are Sensitive to Parallel Lines with a bang. The center of the record is made up of “Salted Pine” and “Colt”, which together stretch to about eighteen-minutes; the former races out of the gate only to pull back into something more pensive, and with “Colt”, Moscow Puzzles build their biggest song out of, primarily, tension and uneasiness. (Bandcamp link)

Florry – Sweet Guitar Solos

Release date: January 25th
Record label: Dear Life
Genre: Alt-country
Formats: Digital
Pull Track: Cowgirl in a Ditch

Florry is a Philadelphia alt-country band led by Francie Medosch, who were last seen releasing the album Big Fall in 2021. Since then, the group has ballooned to a seven-piece band (featuring dedicated pedal steel, lap steel, and fiddle players Sam Silbert, John Murray, and Will Henrikson in addition to vocalist Victoria Rose, guitarist Arthur Medosch, and bassist Jared Radichel) and signed to Dear Life Records. The first release from this new version of Florry is the four-song Sweet Guitar Solos EP, featuring two all-new songs, an updated version of an older Florry tune, and a Drive-By Truckers cover.

Dear Life Records has a good track record when it comes to records made by DBT-indebted musicians with “Guitar Solo” in the title, and Sweet Guitar Solos doesn’t disappoint on this front. Opening track “Cowgirl in a Ditch” takes full advantage of Florry’s current configuration, turning in a wonderfully ragged, steel-guitar-heavy country tune sung by committee. The other new one, “When I Kicked You Out of the Band (I Wasn’t Kicking You Out of My Life)”, is just as fun, leaning hard on the fiddle even as its starts and stops put it more on the “rock” side of country rock than the last song. Their version of “Lisa’s Birthday” is surprisingly restrained, but the energy returns in full force with “Big Fall”, which ramps up a track from Florry’s last record excitedly, so much so that the band keep going long after the “song” ends. (Bandcamp link)

The Drin – Today My Friend You Drunk the Venom

Release date: January 27th
Record label: Feel It/Drunken Sailor/Future Shock
Genre: Garage rock, post-punk, experimental punk
Formats: Vinyl, cassette, digital
Pull Track: Venom

Feel It Records began highlighting the rich underground rock scene in their adopted hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio last year with the release of Crime of Passing’s self-titled debut record, and they continue to dig up gems by signing The Drin and putting out their third record on vinyl (Like Crime of Passing, Today My Friend You Drunk the Venom is being co-released by Cincinnati cassette label Future Shock, and Drunken Sailor Records is stocking the record in Europe). Although The Drin may frequently be grouped in with other Cincinnati punk bands like Crime of Passing and The Serfs, they differentiate themselves clearly on Today My Friend You Drunk the Venom

While all of the aforementioned bands embrace a Midwestern/Rust Belt industrial-adjacent sound, The Drin rely more on empty space and post-punk and experimental leanings rather than their peers’ icy synths. Lead vocalist Dylan McCartney’s vocals are neither Crime of Passing’s catharsis nor The Serfs’ Devo-core robotics–they primarily skew toward “absentminded mutterings”. “Venom” is lo-fi, up-close garage punk at its finest, although The Drin proceed to deconstruct things from there, whether it’s the drum-led “Peaceful, Easy, Feeling” or the dub-inspired “Eyes Only for Space”. Today My Friend You Drunk the Venom still offers up plenty of rocking moments– “Stonewallin’” is inspired punk buried beneath some grime, and six-minute closing track “Mozart on the Wing” is a genuine post-punk anthem–but it doesn’t stay there. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

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