Pressing Concerns: Timeout Room, Cel Ray, Gramercy Arms, Dogs at Large

It’s Pressing Concerns time! Today, we have three new-ish albums (from Timeout Room, Gramercy Arms, and Dogs at Large) plus one new EP (from Cel Ray) to look at. Look for another Pressing Concerns this Thursday!

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.

Timeout Room – Tight-Ass Goku Pictures

Release date: February 3rd
Record label: Tough Gum
Genre: Power pop, lo-fi pop, jangle pop
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull Track: Smooth in Your Element

For most of the 21st century, S.T. McCrary played in Baton Rouge punk group The Melters, releasing several records with the band before they ceased being active.  Now based in New Orleans, McCrary has a new solo project in Timeout Room, whose debut cassette tape was released last month by Tough Gum. The first Timeout Room release, fascinatingly called Tight-Ass Goku Pictures, is a guitar pop album with personality and hooks to spare in its thirty minutes. McCrary’s home recording style is lo-fi but clear-sounding, in a way that reminds me of The Cleaners from Venus (the bizarre intros and fake rock radio interlude tracks, while being of a decidedly different strain than Martin Newell’s overly English whimsy, are in the same spirit as well). McCrary’s influences range from bright indie pop groups like those on Flying Nun’s roster to more punk bands like the Wipers–Tight-Ass Goku Pictures ends up a unique mix that doesn’t quite sound like either.

Timeout Room balances the two ends of their sound from the get-go with opening track “Oozin’ Out”, an incredibly catchy tune with some equally incredibly grotesque imagery. McCrary continues to lob excellent pop songs at the listener from that point—handclaps and synths color the eager-to-please but also melancholic “Finish the Fall”, and “Smooth in Your Element” is a groovy punk-pop banger. Tight-Ass Goku Pictures is a weirdo pop album, to be clear–songs like “They’ll Come” and “How Do They Know?” are as catchy as the record’s more “pure” pop moments, but they’re off-kilter and swerving songs as well, and the final “proper” song on the album, “Electric Success”, surprisingly leans into big, triumphant new wave (albeit in Timeout Room’s own lo-fi way). Tight-Ass Goku Pictures is a trip of a record, coming off crooked one instant and then throwing out something as effortlessly brilliant as “Black ‘n’ Milds” the next. (Bandcamp link)

Cel Ray – Cellular Raymond

Release date: February 20th
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Garage punk, egg punk
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull Track: Surf’s Up (Garfield Park)

Cellular Raymond is the debut release from Chicago’s Cel Ray, and this six-song cassette EP is fifteen minutes of full-force Windy City punk rock at its finest. The sound of the quartet (vocalist Maddie Daviss, drummer Alex Watson, bassist Kevin Goggin, and guitarist Josh Rodin) certainly has traces of the egg-punk, Devo-core sound that the band’s name, album title, and cover art all would suggest, but one should definitely file the EP first and foremost under “ripping, guitar-forward garage punk”. Daviss’ vocals are superb and the work of an instantly compelling punk frontperson, while the rest of Cel Ray are crisp and tight, playing as fun or as heavy as best fits each song with the ease of a band far beyond its debut EP.

Cellular Raymond opens with “Surf’s Up (Garfield Park)”, a straight-up perfect garage punk tune–Cel Ray put on their best surf rock clothes (which includes a good bucket hat, I think), and Daviss’ delivery of everything from the various iterations of the song title to the way their voice cracks at the end (“Where is my towel?”) is just right for the track. “Clorox Wipes” dabbles in germophobia in a way that recalls Devo-esque nervousness, but Cel Ray sound a lot more confident and angry than paranoid here. The midsection of Cellular Raymond is full of lean but potent post-punk-y garage rock tunes (the rumbling “Clock Me Out” is an attention-grabber, as is the following song, in which Daviss literally shouts “Give me all your attention”). The EP ends with “Dog War”, which appropriately ups both the song length and the stakes, really leaning into the low end throughout the track. Still, the song sends the EP off into the sunset with Daviss barking like a dog and Cel Ray ripping some red-hot punk rock. (Bandcamp link)

Gramercy Arms – Deleted Scenes

Release date: March 3rd
Record label: Magic Door
Genre: Post-college rock, jangle pop, folk rock, indie pop
Formats: Digital
Pull Track: Deleted Scenes

Like most people who care a lot about 1990s indie rock, Dave Derby is most familiar to me as the vocalist and bassist for The Dambuilders, the Boston-by-way-of-Honolulu group who released the post-Nirvana-alt-rock-gold-rush cult classic Encendedor on Elektra in 1994, and whose ranks also included Kevin March (Guided by Voices, Shudder to Think) and Joan Wasser (Joan As Police Woman). About a decade and a half ago, however, Derby began leading Gramercy Arms, a New York-based “collective” of a decidedly different stripe than The Dambuilders’ post-Pixies noisy pop stomp. The guest list for Deleted Scenes, the third Gramercy Arms record and first in nearly ten years, is pretty overwhelming, including members of Elk City, The Royal Arctic Institute, and Aeon Station, among many others.

Nevertheless, Deleted Scenes doesn’t feel so much like the work of a revolving door of musicians–it’s united by Derby’s songwriting and lyricism, coming in the form of breezy, gorgeous guitar-based indie pop. Thematically, the record follows a clear, nostalgic throughline guided by a lifetime’s worth of observations from Derby–and interestingly enough, this is where the guest contributions become most noticeable. Songs like “Yesterday’s Girl” and “Fucked Up and Beautiful” begin with Derby reminiscing about women from his past–nothing wrong with a song like that now and again, but both then cede the spotlight to female vocalists (Renée Lo Bue of Elk City in the former and–I think–Hilken Mancini of Fuzzy in the latter) to transform the songs into something with another dimension entirely. Most of the musical flourishes in Deleted Scenes–the 70s-pop horn section in “Tricky Love Stuff”, the super-classy guitar solo in the title track–fit the songs like a glove to the point to where I’m not trying to match which indie rock ringer to which part. (Bandcamp link)

Dogs at Large – County Line

Release date: March 2nd
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Alt-country, roots rock
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull Track: Feels Like the Last Time

Chicago’s Dogs at Large is the project of singer-songwriter Sam Pirruccello, who has been prolific under the name–County Line is the band’s seventh record since 2015. Along the way, Dogs at Large has solidified into a four-piece band (also featuring guitarist Jamie Yanda, bassist Adam Gilmour, and drummer Chris Kolodziej), and this group, plus a few additional players (namely, pedal steel player Steve Malito, keyboardist Andrew Marczak, and violinist Mallory Linehan), gives County Line’s dozen tracks a warm, country rock feeling.  Pirruccello’s songwriting and vocals remain the focal point of the record–he has a heartland rock, weary punk-adjacent way of singing, and a compelling way of making the conversational feel grandiose in his writing.

Much of County Line was inspired by Pirruccello driving extensively around Chicagoland for work, and the songs have a rambling feeling–Dogs at Large really lean into country influences to dress these tracks, which feels appropriate. Songs like “Theseus” find Pirucello and the band embracing a Will Sheff-ian mix of simple effective melodies, Americana, and some sprawling lyrics. Not every song on County Line leans as hard into the twang as, say, “Tennessee”, a genuine country ballad, but the first half of the album in particular is full of songs that put these traces to good use (like in the jaunty “Robes of White”, or the breezy, keyboard-heavy “Feels Like This Is the End”). Likewise, the second half of the album pokes around with violin-heavy, layered indie rock (“I Don’t See You Anymore”) and 70s classic rock (“Vogue Beauty”) without losing the general feeling of County Line–that is, it’s only a few miles down the highway to the next one. (Bandcamp link)

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