Pressing Concerns: Interbellum, Bruiser and Bicycle, Forest Bees, Flycatcher

Welcome to Pressing Concerns! It’s been a big first week of April here on Rosy Overdrive–Monday’s post highlighted records from The Bug Club, miniaturized, Samuel S.C., and Lack of Knowledge, and Tuesday saw the March 2023 playlist go up. But we’re not done yet, as this is a big release week, and we dive into it with new albums from Interbellum, Bruiser and Bicycle, and Forest Bees, plus a new EP from Flycatcher.

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.

Interbellum – Our House Is Very Beautiful at Night

Release date: April 7th
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Folk rock, experimental folk, psychedelia 
Formats: Digital
Pull Track: The Storm

Interbellum is the project of Beirut-based singer-songwriter Karl Mattar–his first record under the name was 2016’s Now Try Coughing, and Dead Pets, Old Griefs followed two years later. The third Interbellum full-length and first in a half-decade was recorded almost entirely by Mattar himself, with only the drums being handled by Postcards’ Pascal Semerdjian. Upon listening, it becomes even more impressive that so much of Our House Is Very Beautiful at Night is the work of one person, given how intricate and involved the album is as a whole. It’s a beautiful and frequently head-spinning indie-folk-rock-noise record, encompassing everything from charming and straightforward pop rock to acoustic folk songs to fuzzy, layered psychedelia. Early 2000s-era Microphones feels like the biggest musical touchstone for the record, something that Our House Is Very Beautiful at Night makes clear from the beginning with the surging echo of “Archeology”, an excellently roaring piece of noise pop.

Instead of just ripping off more fuzzy, shoegaze-adjacent indie rockers after the opening shot of “Archeology”, however, Interbellum reaches out in a few different directions on Our House Is Very Beautiful at Night’s next few tracks. “Enemies (Or the Enemy of My Enemy Is My Enemy)” is a gorgeous piece of psych-folk that shows off Mattar’s melodic vocals, and “Ancestral Lines” and (especially) “Flotsam” feature a relatively stripped-down version of Interbellum’s sound. The fuzziness and rock band setup return on “Microcosms”, featuring a droning organ peaking through the wall of sound and an ace performance from Semerdjian. The semi-title track “Our House” is another Phil Elverum-esque tune in its balance of Mattar’s unadorned, sincere vocals and the rising and falling noisiness that accompanies him (we’re also perhaps in the folkier-side-of-Elephant-6 territory here as well).

The sleepy, late night indie pop of “Partners” blossoms after a ninety-second introduction track acts as a gestation period. This pulling back of the noise curtains to reveal shiny pop moments is an effective tool in Our House Is Very Beautiful at Night’s arsenal–it pops up most noticeably when “The Storm (Detail)” parts to reveal the sunshine of “The Storm”, the brightest pop song on the record.  After the nice, friendly veneer of “The Storm”, Mattar chooses to end Our House Is Very Beautiful at Night with the sparse, scattered folk of “There’s That Feeling Again” and the ambient noise of “Dreams of Rubble”, giving every angle of Interbellum one last look before the record dissipates with the sun. (Bandcamp link)

Bruiser and Bicycle – Holy Red Wagon

Release date: April 5th
Record label: Topshelf
Genre: Psychedelic pop, experimental rock
Formats: CD, cassette, digital
Pull Track: Unknown Orchard

One of my favorite albums of 2019 was Bruiser & Bicycle’s debut full-length record, Woods Come Find Me. That album, made by the core duo of Albany’s Nick Whittemore and Keegan Graziane and released by Bee Side Cassettes, was a wonder, a collection of frantically-strummed, bonkers psychedelic folk songs that sounded like nothing anyone else was doing at the time and slowly built up a cult following among people who recognized this. Topshelf Records wisely scooped up the band for their long-awaited sophomore record, this month’s Holy Red Wagon, and it truly sounds like Bruiser and Bicycle spent all four interstitial years crafting this follow-up. Holy Red Wagon lands pretty far away sonically from the acoustic-based, ramshackle Woods Come Find Me, but the band (now featuring drummer Joe Taurone and bassist Zakariya Houacine, though only the former contributed to the record) are far from unrecognizable, either, just…more.

Holy Red Wagon feels and sounds like a conscious attempt to adapt their sound for the big screen, to blow it up proportionately and use the expanded palette to reach new areas while not losing their core sound. It’s a progressive pop album– both incredibly catchy and a lot to take in all at once. Seven of the record’s nine songs are over six minutes long, and Bruiser & Bicycle aren’t stuffing these tracks with ambient interludes or anything like that–they’re “on” for almost the entire run. “Aerial Shipyards” opens the record by lurching forward, a nautical, stretched-and-contorted piece of Beach Boys-esque studio pop that eventually surges into full-on psychedelia towards the end. This is a theme of Holy Red Wagon, with songs taking journeys and having enough time to get there that it ends up being a gradual transition from say, the jaunty first half of “Forks of the Jailhouse” to the more pensive closing few minutes to its psychedelic rock outro. 

Pretty much all of Holy Red Wagon stacks its songs thusly–the frantic percussion in lead single “1000 Engines” isn’t less wild than anything else on the album, and the soaring vocals are as catchy as any other part of the record. The lyrics and their delivery throughout Holy Red Wagon match the music in being triumphant-sounding slices of psychedelia, like Bruiser & Bicycle have just climbed mountains and forded rivers to excitedly tell us all about rats coming out to play and cinnabar altars. A record this full needs to come off as eager in every facet in order to give the listener something to hold onto amidst its swirling parts, and there’s not an aspect to Holy Red Wagon that doesn’t meet this bar. (Bandcamp link)

Forest Bees – Between the Lines

Release date: April 7th
Record label: Dandy Boy
Genre: Indie pop, dream pop
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull Track: At My Sphere

Around the turn of the century, Sheetal Singh played bass in San Francisco shoegaze band The Stratford 4, an Elektra-signed group who disintegrated in the midst of major-label purgatory around 2004. Singh stepped away from music for a while after that–she became a mother, writer, and began a career in children’s education–but she resurfaced in Berkeley in 2020 as Forest Bees, releasing a self-titled debut record that recalled her shoegaze past but also incorporated more electronic and dream pop influences. The second Forest Bees album–arriving via cassette through Dandy Boy Records–continues and expands upon this exploration of a few different stripes of indie music. Between the Lines has plenty of “rock album” touchstones (it features guitar contributions from former Stratford 4 bandmate Chris Streng, among others), but doesn’t feel content to stay in that mode.

Between the Lines was produced by Maryam Qudus of Spacemoth, another band that hovers between those two worlds. Forest Bees feels a bit lighter than Spacemoth–although I definitely hear the Stereolab influence that also marks Qudus’ band, Between the Lines doesn’t quite touch the ground enough to fully recall the French group’s analog-synth-rock, instead evoking some of the more empty-space and electronic-based groups from around the same time. I don’t believe the lack of easy categorization for this record is an accident–it’s literally called Between the Lines, for one, and Singh, the daughter of Indian immigrants, directly says that the “categories” that society might attempt to sort Asian Americans into informed the subject matter of these songs (the music itself reflects this in its incorporation of Bollywood soundtracks into its sound). 

Between the Lines is slightly longer than LP length, pushing 50 minutes over its ten tracks. Closing song “All That Damage” stretches over seven minutes in length (although it should be noted that it’s a reworking of a Stratford 4 song that was originally fifteen minutes long, so Singh is, perhaps, actually practicing brevity here). It feels like not only is Singh taking the time to say all she wants to say in these songs–she’s also presenting it in a way that gives everything room to breathe. (Bandcamp link)

Flycatcher – Stunt

Release date: April 4th
Record label: Memory Music
Genre: Alt-rock, pop punk, fuzz rock
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull Track: Quitter

Stunt, the latest EP from New Brunswick’s Flycatcher, plants itself squarely in the wheelhouse of a certain subset of indie rock fans . Coming after two self-released full-lengths, this five-song record is their debut for Will Yip’s Memory Music, and the quartet harken back to a bygone era of radio rock across the length of Stunt. They’re not quite big 90s post-grunge revivalists like their labelmates Webbed Wing, instead feeling right at home in the world of turn-of-the-century alt-rock. These songs are touched a bit by the era’s pop punk, garage rock, pop-emo, and sincere indie rock without coming off as a pastiche of any of them. Frontperson Gregory Thomas Pease is an earnest lyricist with a lot to say across Stunt, and the rest of Flycatcher (guitarist Justin VanNiekerk, bassist Jack Delle Cava, and drummer Connor Carmelengo) bring the energy to back him up.

Stunt begins with two “rockers”, with the upbeat pop rock of “Games” opening things up in just about as bright and friendly a way as possible musically, even as Pease attempts to unwind an emotional and personal maze in the lyrics. “Always Selfish” is the simmering one, a darker shade of pop punk and alt-rock than the preceding track but still offering up hooks in the form of its chorus and its kickstart of a guitar riff. Flycatcher have a more midtempo mode that they reveal on the rest of the EP, kicking out a couple of emo-tinged slow-build anthems in “Sodas in the Freezer” and “Quitter”, contemplating their way to huge pop choruses. The latter sends Stunt off with an outro of distortion and a soaring guitar solo–sounding grand even while Pease sings about giving up, falling apart, and whatnot. (Bandcamp link)

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