Pressing Concerns: Taleen Kali, Fixtures, Nagasaki Swim, Proto Tip

Welcome back to Pressing Concerns! Last week, the February 2023 playlist took the spot of a Thursday album post (check that post out, by the way, it’s very good), so here we’re looking at two great albums that came out last Friday (from Taleen Kali and Nagasaki Swim), plus albums from last month from Fixtures and Proto Tip.

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.

Taleen Kali – Flower of Life

Release date: March 3rd
Record label: Dum Dum
Genre: Indie pop, shoegaze, dream pop, post-punk
Formats: Vinyl, CD, cassette, digital
Pull Track: Flower of Life

Although Flower of Life is Los Angeles’ Taleen Kali’s first full-length solo album, they’ve been making music in some form for the bulk of this decade. Their previous band, TÜLIPS, released an album in 2015 before breaking up the following year (though they’ve put out a couple of one-off singles since then), and Kali themself released a solo EP, Soul Songs, in 2018, and another one (Songs for Meditation) in 2021. There are certainly traces of TÜLIPS’ lo-fi, poppy garage rock on Flower of Life, but the record as a whole aims for something heavier and denser than their past work. Kali and their band (Royce Hsu, Rhys Hastings, and Miles Marsico, plus contributions from producers Josiah Mazzaschi and Jeff Schroeder) pound through ten loud, electric shoegaze-tinged tracks that still retain a pop core and are carried by Kali’s strong presence as a frontperson.

Taleen Kali and the band come barreling out of the gate with hard-charging opening title track. A swirling, foot-on-gas piece of distorted psych rock, “Flower of Life” blows open the rest of the record–songs like “Crusher” and “Only Lovers Left Alive” incorporate a bit more of a layered, dream pop-esque sound, but still sound like the work of a sharp rock band. Flower of Life doesn’t let up for the majority of its runtime, laying down rockers like the low-end-heavy, post-punk-y “Fine Line” and the speedy “Trash Talk”. The final few songs are where Kali throws a few curveballs– “Summer of Sound” quells the noise for two minutes to deliver a short but sweet, sunny 60s pop ballad, while, in “Vague Flesh”, Kali stretches out and fully embraces dream pop with a five-minute, synth and drum machine-aided track. “Spirit Plane” ends the record by once again returning to fuzzy rock, albeit in a slower and more deliberate way than the rest of Flower of Life–but no less striking. (Bandcamp link)

Fixtures – Hollywood Dog

Release date: February 24th
Record label: Naturally/Bobo Integral
Genre: Power pop, 90s indie rock, post-punk, “noir pop”
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull Track: Emo Phillips (Hole in My Head)

Brooklyn’s Fixtures are a six-piece band that have been around for a bit (they released an EP in 2018, and another one in 2020), and last month saw the release of Hollywood Dog, their first album.  The group is led by guitarist/vocalist K. Liakos, and their debut full-length is being co-released by Liakos’ Naturally Records and the great Bobo Integral (Mo Troper, Daily Worker, The Boys with the Perpetual Nervousness). On Hollywood Dog, Fixtures commit fully to a familiar-sounding but nevertheless distinct sound–they start off with the foundation of sturdy, guitar-forward 90s indie rock and blow it up with a 2000s indie-esque love of big choruses, auxiliary musicians, and several vocal contributions from various members. To put it one way–Fixtures contains multiple full-time horn players (trumpet player Riley Cooke and saxophonist Jules Block) and neither’s prominence feels out of place on these ten tracks.

Hollywood Dog kicks off with “21/1”, a steady-building indie rock anthem that captures Fixtures’ sound quite well–a saxophone intro gives way to chugging, clear-eyed indie rock that then gets punctuated with an instrumental, horn-based refrain. Fixtures offer up plenty of meat and melody on the record’s first half, from the downcast guitar riff that anchors the deliberate “Jimmy Needs the Money” to the way Liakos’ vocals emote in “Ghost Relays” to match the triumphant-sounding horns. The B-side to Hollywood Dog actually might be my favorite half, starting with an excellent three-song-run kicked off by the speedy, handclap-aided title track, continuing into the righteous-sounding but bittersweet “Song for Last Summer”, and then going into the gorgeous, not-doing-too-much “Emo Phillips (Hole in My Head)”. Records like Hollywood Dog are up my alley by nature, but even considering that, these songs are excellently-executed and I’ll be spinning this one for a while. (Bandcamp link)

Nagasaki Swim – Everything Grows

Release date: March 3rd
Record label: Excelsior
Genre: Indie folk, country-folk
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull Track: The Weight, Pt. 2

Nagasaki Swim is a project led by Jasper Boogaard, a musician who hails from Rotterdam, Netherlands but plays a mix of indie folk and gentle country-rock that’s the kind of music that frequently gets tagged as “Americana”. Everything Grows, the band’s second album, follows 2021’s The Mirror, and retains bassist Jasper Werij and drummer Jim Luijten, while also introducing guitarist/pianist Kat Kalkman and featuring a host of guest musician contributions. Everything Grows is an incredibly warm and comforting listen, with trumpets, violins, and lap/pedal steel (the latter provided by Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner of Songs: Ohia) shading the record’s nine songs.

Everything Grows comes in at under thirty minutes in length, and two of its tracks come in at under a minute. Being a brief record certainly doesn’t mean that Everything Grows isn’t a substantial one, however–the album’s first three tracks are all excellent, sublime country-folk songs that showcase Boogaard’s songwriting skills and the band’s range. “American Dipper” is clear-sounding, giving the song space to breathe, while “Window” builds to a big instrumental crescendo. The album’s centerpiece is “The Weight, Pt. 2”–it’s a gorgeous song, with a full instrumental surrounding Boogaard’s lyrics dealing with but not being bogged down by mortality (“Death is on my mind / Some things are just always there / And that’s OK”). “The Weight, Pt. 2” is enhanced by the violin of Molly Germer (Alex G’s band), as is second-half highlight “Sleep”. Everything Grows ends with the end-credits feeling of the title track–it begins with just Boogaard and an acoustic guitar, but like the rest of the album, it builds to something fuller than that. (Bandcamp link)

Proto Tip – S ivice sanjanja

Release date: February 23rd
Record label: Pop Depresija/Kišobran
Genre: Indie rock, post-punk, noise rock
Formats: Vinyl (forthcoming), digital
Pull Track: krećem se

Pop Depresija (aka Pop Depression) is a Serbian record label that co-released Macedonian/Slovenian indie rock band Rush to Relax’s sublime Misli last year, and their latest offering is an indie rock group from their own home country. Belgrade’s Proto Tip released their debut EP back in 2017, and their first full-length album, last month’s S ivice sanjanja, has been in the works for the past five years. Befitting of its long gestation time, many people had a hand in creating S ivice sanjanja–Proto Tip began as a trio led by Nikola Čučković, but its membership has ballooned in the intermittent time, and the record features a host of guest musicians as well.

S ivice sanjanja (English: “From the Edge of Dreaming”) is a dark-sounding album, taking a guitar-forward, 90s indie rock core and adding post-punk atmospherics and moodiness throughout its eight songs. Opening track “krećem se” introduces the record with hypnotic, shimmering guitar leads, downcast vocals, and prominent, plodding bass, while “svet se menja” keeps things running with its late-night-drive tempo, alarm-sounding guitars, and deadpan singing. The rest of S ivice sanjanja balances almost-dreamy guitar playing with the never-flagging low-end for an interesting combination of indie rock genres–at least until the heavy, noise rock catharsis of closing track “kako ovde” blows everything away. Although Proto Tip represents the entirety of Serbian indie rock I’ve heard so far, S ivice sanjanja suggests that there’s more worth looking into there. (Bandcamp link)

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