Pressing Concerns: Telehealth, Mystic 100’s, The Declining Winter, DJ Silky Smooth

The last Pressing Concerns of March covers a big release Friday! Three great records out tomorrow (from Telehealth, Mystic 100’s, and The Declining Winter) are here, plus an album from earlier this week from DJ Silky Smooth. If you missed Monday’s post (covering The Reds, Pinks & Purples, Rust Ring, Eggs on Mars, and Sakkaris), check that one out too.

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.

Telehealth – Content Oscillator

Release date: March 31st
Record label: Very Famous
Genre: New wave, synthpunk, egg punk, post-punk
Formats: Vinyl, cassette, digital
Pull Track: Idiot Proof (nO SoUp Du JoUr)

Telehealth’s Content Oscillator is a rare album. The record is a collaboration between Seattle’s Alex Attitude (of Deep Sea Diver, Kithkin, and Brian John Appleby) and Kendra Cox (of Lemolo)–Attitude is the head songwriter, and both of them sing. Attitude stepped away from music for a few years to be an architect, but quickly became disillusioned with the paper-thin utopianism of this new industry–the dressing up of the status quo in progressive and deceptively-sustainable-seeming packages. Thus a return to rock music was in order for a decidedly reinvigorated Attitude, and Telehealth was born. 

Telehealth’s debut record, Content Oscillator, is an incredibly fun-sounding synthpop/egg punk/new wave record, devoting just as much time to jamming Attitude’s observations, sketches, and satirical portrayals into these songs as it does to making them as enjoyable and entertaining as possible. This is to say–Telehealth sound a lot like Devo on Content Oscillator. I’m not sure if I’ve heard a modern band that nails the “Devo” sound better than Telehealth. And, befitting of its subject matter, Attitude and Cox accomplish this by embracing much more than surface-level “Devo-core” aesthetics, going further and dedicating themselves to developing an entire green-tinted worldview over the course of the record.

“Idiot Proof (nO SoUp Du JoUr)” is a pure blast of an opening track, a positively sparkling piece of synth-punk whose call-and-response chorus will instantly lodge itself in your brain. The first half of Content Oscillator offers up a few withering songs in “Hyper Tech Green Investment Guy” (“I work hard–I’m not a cop!”) and “Unsafe Feeling” (featuring dagger after dagger of a delivery from Cox), but Telehealth don’t slow down the chugging egg-punk-pop machine from there, instead dragging their subjects along with them gleefully. Take “Do the In-Between” right in the middle of the record–the single turns the way true uniqueness and optimism can get sapped and watered down to nothing by bad-faith actors into a dance craze. 

Although Attitude takes the mic more frequently of the two, Cox’s turns up front end up being quite memorable, nailing the casually pulverizing nature of the post-punk-y “Blinding Hour”. Telehealth never lose their fire throughout Content Oscillator, but they do show a new dimension towards the end of the record with a few pretty synthpop tunes (“Cool Breeze”, “No Time Lost”). Still, the rousing “Yr Groove” is what Telehealth choose to send off Content Oscillator. As sharp and satisfying it is as a closing track musically, Attitude and Telehealth resist the trap of trying to wrap up something as thorny as Content Oscillator’s subject matters neatly. “If things are ending, does it mean I’m free?” Attitude wonders over a surging new wave instrumental. There’s no answer, just the groove. (Bandcamp link)

Mystic 100’s – On a Micro Diet

Release date: March 31st
Record label: Listening House/Online Ceramics
Genre: Psychedelic rock, experimental rock, garage rock
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull Track: Windowpane

Mystic 100’s were, for their reign of terror in the 2010s, known as Milk Music, roaring in from the Pacific Northwest and making two beloved records of noisy, fuzzy, 80s-underground-inspired indie-punk-rock before disappearing following 2017’s Mystic 100’s. In the six interstitial years, Milk Music spread from their origins in Olympia and Seattle to across the West Coast, added two new members (percussionist Travis Coster and piano/synth player Abby Dahlquist join the original line-up of guitarist/vocalist Alex Coxen, guitarist Dave Harris, bassist Charles Waring, and drummer Joe Rutter), and took the name of their previous full-length record for the new edition of their band. Befitting of the name change, there are traces of Milk Music on On a Micro Diet, but it sounds like nothing the band has done before. A massive double album of pure psychedelic rock, the record takes the Milk Music garage rock sound and blows it up, out, and to pieces.

I would say that the opening title track sets the tone for what to expect on On a Micro Diet, but the only way that’s really true is that it tells you to expect the unexpected. “On a Micro Diet” feigns a classic Milk Music opening until immediately veering into a ten-minute acid-dripping psychedelic jam session–not long after it, the nine-minute “Drug Man” tops it by straight-up morphing into jazz-rock, and the two jams are connected by “Message from Lonnie”, which isn’t as freewheeling but is still eight minutes of the loosest psych-tinged ballad you’ll hear. Fans of Mystic 100’s’ work under their old name will be immediately drawn to “Windowpane”, a five-minute catchy fuzz-rock tune that feels more dramatic than Mystic 100’s as a whole but shows they can still pull off that “sound” quite well. After that song and the equally-accessible country-psych of “Two Souls”, however, it’s back to the nearly-twenty minute “Have You Ever Chased a Lightbeam?”, and the rest of On a Micro Diet’s vibes are only broken up by the sub-one-minute garage-punk yelp of “On a Micro Diet 2”. Tune into the Mystic 100’s frequency–it’s worth it. (Bandcamp link)

The Declining Winter – Really Early, Really Late

Release date: March 31st
Record label: Home Assembly/Rusted Rail
Genre: Slowcore, post-rock, folk rock
Formats: Vinyl, cassette, CD, digital
Pull Track: Song of the Moor Fire

Richard Adams is probably most well-known for his work with Hood, the northern English band he co-led with his brother Chris and which released a ton of post-rock-and-slowcore-indebted records in the roughly fifteen years they were actively recording. The last Hood album came out in 2005, and since then, Richard has been, if anything, even more prolific with his solo project, The Declining Winter. Not counting EPs, splits, and remix albums, I believe that Really Early, Really Late is the eighth Declining Winter record since 2008. Over three decades into making this kind of music, Adams’ new album reaches towards beauty like the best of this genre does–considering that emptiness and restraint are key factors in slowcore, Adams’ experience has likely only aided his ability to reach its heights.

Really Early, Really Late finds itself on the pastoral English, almost-folky side of slowcore, and post-rock–strings (from violinist Sarah Kemp and cellist Peter Hollo) abound–Adams cites the likes of Mark Hollis and Robert Wyatt as inspiration for the double album. Synths color the record as well–perhaps not as electronic-friendly as Hood at their most adventurous, but nor is Really Early, Really Late a Luddite album. Songs like opening duo “The Darkening Way” and “Song of the Moor Fire”, as well as “Yellow Fields”, build deliberately around acoustic, folk skeletons, while “This Heart Beats Black” gets tugged along by synths anchored by Adams’ bass playing. There are moments of (controlled chaos) in some of Really Early, Really Late’s longer numbers, but The Declining Winter build to them to the point where they’re just another piece of a larger puzzle. (Bandcamp link)

DJ Silky Smooth – I’m Glad for Life

Release date: March 27th
Record label: Bee Side Cassettes
Genre: Indie pop, indie folk, experimental pop
Formats: CD, cassette, digital
Pull Track: Concorde

Although the “DJ” at the front of DJ Silky Smooth’s stage name might be a bit of a misnomer, the rest of the moniker fits his music just fine. DJ Silky Smooth (aka Jacob Schwartz) has been making music under the name since at least 2017, and his latest full-length record is full of bright, shiny, guitar-based indie pop songs. Schwartz is based in Brooklyn, but the friendly, warm sound of I’m Glad for Life isn’t far off from several acts originating in his label Bee Side Cassette’s home of Albany, like Another Michael, Blue Ranger, and (in nearby Troy) Russel the Leaf. Instead of sticking more pure folk/baroque indie rock, however, Silky Smooth ensures that the “DJ” isn’t just there for show with some interesting electronic additions, the occasional vocal effect, and prominent drum machines. 

“Offbeat” touches aside, I’m Glad for Life is an indie pop record first and foremost. DJ Silky Smooth has plenty of tricks in his bag, but rather than overwhelm each of the album’s thirteen tracks, he’ll add a couple to each song, knock out a hook, and move on in about two minutes. Schwartz pitches his voice up and down in “Floaty” and adds some whirring synths, but the crystal-clear acoustic guitar is the main feature of the song. “Birds” in particular presents the two sides hand in hand, with a whimsical acoustic guitar, 80s synths, and some referee-whistle sound effects all taking their turns to underline Schwartz’s sincere, melodic vocals. Schwartz delivers a particularly affecting performance in “Concorde”, and it shines through the drum machines dancing all over the track. When we finally get a chance to hear Schwartz alone with his guitar in “Secret Track”, he’s singing “I’ve fallen in love with a toaster”–truly not a dull moment on this record. (Bandcamp link)

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