Pressing Concerns: Whitney’s Playland, The Lost Days, Tedward, Natural Velvet

Hello! It’s Pressing Concerns time again! Another big release day is nearly upon us–today’s post looks at three records coming out tomorrow, March 17th (Whitney’s Playland, The Lost Days, and Tedward), plus an EP from Natural Velvet that came out a couple weeks ago. This has been a rare three-post week on Rosy Overdrive: If you missed me going long on the new Emperor X EP on Tuesday, or Monday’s look at Timeout Room, Cel Ray, Gramercy Arms, and Dogs at Large, I recommend checking both of those out as well.

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.

Whitney’s Playland – Sunset Sea Breeze

Release date: March 17th
Record label: Paisley Shirt/Meritorio
Genre: Power pop, indie pop, jangle pop
Formats: Vinyl, cassette, digital
Pull Track: Sunset Sea Breeze

Whitney’s Playland was formed during the pandemic by Inna Showalter and George Tarlson, two San Francisco musicians who have played in several noisy Bay Area pop bands previously (Blades of Joy, Modern Charms, Grandma’s Boyfriend). The group (which recently added Evan Showalter and Paul DeMartini to become a four-piece) are releasing their debut record, Sunset Sea Breeze, on vinyl via Meritorio and cassette via Paisley Shirt, and it’s certainly a strong opening statement of a first album. Whitney’s Playland feels a bit more low-key than some of Showalter and Tarlson’s louder old bands–it fits right in with the sleepy, dreamy Bay Area jangle pop that Paisley Shirt has been chronicling in recent years. Dreaminess aside, however, Sunset Sea Breeze is also one of the straight-up catchiest records I’ve heard this year–it’s a lo-fi power pop record first and foremost.

The record’s opening title track is a transcendent indie pop experience, riding a simple ascending acoustic-guitar-and-bass progression triumphantly in a way that sounds like The Crabs crossed with The Sundays. The big-electric-guitar-wielding “Mercy” follows it up one song later, and it’s no less of a melodic wrecking ball than “Sunset Sea Breeze”. Whitney’s Playland can jangle, too– “Backwards Forever” is a fine entry into the genre that highlights the first half of the album as well. There’s a wistfulness to Showalter’s vocals and in the home-recorded nature of the record–perhaps it reflects more on me than the music, but I was already thinking about Guided by Voices even before they bust out a slowed-down, shimmering cover of “Motor Away” midway through the album. Not losing steam at all, the second half of Sunset Sea Breeze offers up the noisy, drum-machine-driven “Rain Song” and the acoustic, floating charms of “Sketches of Dino” and “Tiger by the Tail”–all of which feature equally melodic vocals from Showalter. Sunset Sea Breeze offers enough strong hooks for several records’ worth of indie pop–or, you could just listen to this one album and get drawn in immediately. (Bandcamp link)

The Lost Days – In the Store

Release date: March 17th
Record label: Speakeasy Studios SF
Genre: Lo-fi indie pop
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull Track: For Today

The Lost Days is a collaboration between Tony Molina (of Ovens and a pretty impressive solo career) and Sarah Rose Janko (who leads folk rock group Dawn Riding) that began a few years ago in an Oakland warehouse. The duo released their debut record, the Lost Demos EP, in 2021, and their first album was written remotely and recorded whenever schedules lined up after Janko moved to New Orleans. The music that inspired In the Store is eye-catching–Bill Fox, The Byrds, Dear Nora and Guided by Voices–and the record does live up to what one might imagine reading those acts’ names. It’s homespun-sounding, lo-fi, acoustic-based pop music–it’s neither Janko’s rambling country-folk nor Molina’s sharp power pop, but it’s also not a world away from either (in fact, In the Store feels like the midpoint in their disparate sounds).

As anyone familiar with Tony Molina’s solo work knows, he is the master of the short song, and he doesn’t change this up for In the Store–these ten songs zip by in about fourteen minutes, only about four longer than their EP. Likewise, those familiar with Molina know that this is ample time for his songs to take hold. In the Store is breezily-strummed pop songs from the get-go, with “Gonna Have to Tell You”, “Half the Time”, and “For Today” all humbly making their mark and departing. Janko’s vocals are conversational and cheery, which helps mask some of the record’s darker undercurrents (“It seems to me the hardest part of staying sober / Is anytime that you come over today”, observes Janko in “For Today”, not the only song touching on alcoholism on the record). Molina sounds more downcast in the couple of songs he sings–“Pass the Time” is about as dire as this kind of music can get. In the Store is a casual-sounding record whose intimacy and depth are only enhanced by its presentation. (Bandcamp link)

Tedward – Floater

Release date: March 17th
Record label: I’m into Life
Genre: Fuzz rock, shoegaze, noise pop
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull Track: Shooting Star

Cincinnati has been host to a lot of great garage punk music lately (Crime of Passing, The Drin, Choncy), and while the city’s Tedward certainly rock as hard as any of those groups, they do it in a decidedly different vein. Led by singer-songwriter Terence Lee, Tedward’s debut cassette, Floater, is loud, amped-up fuzz rock in the vein of Ovlov and a few other northeastern, Exploding in Sound-core groups (Lee is pretty open about being a big Ovlov fan–Floater‘s opening track “Ablona” was inspired by a dream of seeing the band play live), as well as omnivorous, poppy shoegaze-influenced rock bands like Enumclaw. Floater is a brief debut tape–like the Lost Days album, it’s over in about fourteen minutes, with the band ripping through these seven songs with the enthusiasm of a newly-minted group.

The first two songs on Floater hit with full force–“Ablona” washes over the listener with a steady, roaring sound, and Lee’s vocals push through the noise in the 90s alt-rock-evoking “Shooting Star”. The speedy fuzz-punk of the title track is the one other breakneck rocker on Floater, although the rest of the tape is pretty sturdy too. The streak from “Spencer Dr.” to “Keep It Moving” doesn’t turn off the fuzz so much as deploy it in a way to let the tracks differentiate themselves from each other–the one song that unplugs the amps for a bit is closing track “Ending”, which lets Lee perform an acoustic number for about a minute before the band kicks in for a triumphant, massive electric rock finish. (Bandcamp link)

Natural Velvet – Cruel Optimism

Release date: March 3rd
Record label: Plastic Babylon
Genre: Alt-rock, post-punk
Formats: Digital
Pull Track: Signifier (Desire)

Baltimore’s Natural Velvet have been around for a decade or so, but this month’s Cruel Optimism is their first record in a while–aside from a pandemic-era remix EP, their last album came out back in 2017. No context is really needed to enjoy the quartet’s latest offering, however–Cruel Optimism is five enthusiastic songs that jump from 90s alt-rock to post-punk to dream pop to jangly college rock while still cohering with each other. Vocalist/bassist Corynne Ostermann is a theatrical punk rock singer whose range is on full display throughout the EP, and the rest of the band (guitarists Kim Te and Spike Arreaga, drummer Greg Hatem) play in a way complimentary of her voice, be it furiously or deftly. 

Cruel Optimism’s first two tracks hit both ends of Natural Velvet’s sound–EP opener “Guarantee” rips into things with crunchy, noisy alt-rock, but then the band effortlessly roll into the bouncy pop-rock of “I Keep You Honest” immediately afterwards (it sounds kind of like Screaming Females playing a 10,000 Maniacs song). Natural Velvet stretch out a bit on the sprawling “Signifier (Desire)” and let their Sonic Youth influence show in some pretty hanging guitar lines, although it’s the EP’s final two songs that really find the band pushing themselves. Both cross the five-minute line– “Data Trail” uses its time to rip through a scorching post-punk (with the emphasis on punk instrumental) before guiding the song to a jangly finish, while “Swan” floats through a dream pop sound that’s delicate despite still having full-band might. Varied but consistent, Cruel Optimism excels throughout its twenty minute runtime. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: