Pressing Concerns: Bell and the Ringers, Public Interest, Pure Material, Second Body

Welcome to a new Pressing Concerns! Today features two albums that came out last Friday (by Public Interest and Pure Material) plus two records from earlier in the year that I’ve been meaning to get around to for a while (Bell and the Ringers and Second Body).

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.

Bell and the Ringers – Bell and the Ringers

Release date: March 10th
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Pop punk, power pop, emo
Formats: Digital
Pull Track: Give Me Therapy

Bell and the Ringers are a long-distance duo made up of Melbourne’s Lucas Bell and Toronto’s Brent Vipond–the latter is the lead singer, both of them write the songs and contribute instrumental parts. Vipond and Bell have been collaborating since 2017 and have a couple of EPs to their name, but Bell and the Ringers appears to be their first full-length together. Their Bandcamp bills themselves as an “alt-rock folk band”–maybe that was more true for their earlier material, but on their debut album, I hear a very solid rendition of a very specific kind of 2000s-era indie-pop-punk. Vipond’s vocals sound notably similar to Ben Gibbard’s (it does kind of feel like a more pop punk version of Death Cab for Cutie in some places), and I also hear hints of The Thermals and even a bit of Relient K.

Bell and the Ringers has some heft to it–the balance that Vipond and Bell walk throughout the record is keeping the pop punk energy up while still developing the tracks. And to be clear, Bell and the Ringers is a very energetic record–opening track “Never to Be Seen Again” is massively infectious with its power pop keyboard hook, Blue Album guitars in the chorus, and Vipond’s self-call-and-response vocals. The sprinting “Mistakes”, the bouncy “Give Me Therapy”, and the 90s-pop-punk-evoking “Easier” all keep the record’s foot on the gas in the first half. The core of the record is made up of a couple songs that slow things down in “Panic Attacks (Read Between the Lines)” and “Renter’s Suite” (which features, I think, the most prominent use of an acoustic guitar on the album). In the second half of the record, “GBSH” keeps things punchy with its melodic bass parts and triumphant power chords, and the alt-rock crunch of “Dawn to Dusk” sticks out towards the end of the album.

“I don’t know what else to say,” sings Vipond in Bell and the Ringers’ opening track, but that doesn’t stop Vipond from trying to find some words to sing over the soaring music across the course of the record. Vipond continues this thread by insisting  “If I knew just what to say, that would make this all okay” in the midst of self-critical anthem “Mistakes”, and by trying to tell people not to take their words at face value in“Panic Attacks (Read Between the Lines)” (instead encouraging the addressee of the song to do as the second half of its title suggests). The brisk pace of Bell and the Ringers (and the relatively low-mixed vocals) means one might miss some interesting lines, but what does stick out (the particularly Gibbard-esque dialogue at the beginning of “Give Me Therapy”, for example) is enough to sell an intriguing, promising under-the-radar band. (Bandcamp link)

Public Interest – Spiritual Pollution

Release date: April 7th
Record label: Erste Theke Tontraeger/Spiritual Pollution
Genre: Post-punk, noise rock
Formats: Vinyl, cassette, digital
Pull Track: Why Bother?

Chris Natividad is a prolific Bay Area musician–he’s probably most notable for being part of Oakland garage-post-punks Marbled Eye, but he’s also played with Hides, Aluminum, Tanukichan, Blue Zero, and makes music on his own as Public Interest. Following 2019’s one-man-show Between EP, this month sees the release of Spiritual Pollution, the debut Public Interest full-length. Public Interest has since grown to a quartet featuring Andrew Oswald, Bee Wright, and Brendan Hagerty, and Spiritual Pollution certainly sounds like the work of a sharp rock band. On the record, Public Interest deal in a dark, guitar-heavy post-punk garage sound–perhaps more meditative than Marbled Eye but still in the same ballpark, Spiritual Pollution also reminds me more than a bit of DIÄT and even trends into some stoic Sonic Youth noise rock in places.

The somewhat brisk, reverb-y “Undone” opens Spiritual Pollution on a slightly busier note than the rest of the record–in a way, it’s the brightest that the album gets. On tracks like “Why Bother?” and “Slow Burn”, Public Interest let the low end lead the rest of the boat, prowling through dingy, coiled post-punk. There are moments of release throughout the record, to be sure–guitar rave-ups aren’t uncommon, from “Residue””s turn towards garage rock to the layers draped upon “Falling Ash” and the title track right in the middle of the album. Natividad’s vocals stay flat and unmoved throughout Spiritual Pollution, anchoring the rest of the band around him. Spiritual Pollution ascends slightly in closing track “Burden of Time”, adding in just a little bit of the brighter side of 80s alt-rock–Natividad, buried a bit more in the mix than usual, responds with some wordless vocals to send everything off. (Bandcamp link)

Pure Material – Orange Whip Licorice

Release date: April 7th
Record label: Dandy Boy
Genre: Lo-fi indie rock, dream pop, jangle pop, bedroom pop, psych pop
Formats: Cassette, CD, digital
Pull Track: Flowers by Your Bedside

Oakland’s Adam Widener has been active in the Bay Area music scene for a few years now as the lead singer and guitarist of fuzzy jangle pop group The 1981. Recently he’s begun a solo project, Pure Material, and his debut record under the name, Orange Whip Licorice, finds Widener making enjoyable guitar pop music of a different stripe. The eight-song cassette/CD “slacker pop” release feels more casual and stretched-out than The 1981’s more regimented indie rock–using only some synths, a typical rock band setup, and an understated voice that can still deliver an ace melody, Widener makes music that points towards 60s psychedelic pop and dream pop while still having one foot in the “90s lo-fi indie rock” camp.

“Flowers by Your Bedside” begins Orange Whip Licorice with something of a surprise psychedelic anthem, with the downcast guitar riff and wiggling synths all exploding into a wide-eyed chorus. “Tokyo Snow” isn’t quite as busy as the opening track, but it continues Pure Material’s feeling of quiet but fervent wonder as Widener sings the title line. In “Ambrosia”, the synth/organ leads are as much of an integral part of the song as anything else, with some of the track’s instrumental passages letting the synth lines deliver the memorable melodies. Although Orange Whip Licorice is a “bedroom pop” recorded made by Widener alone, it still can offer up a full-band sound when it wants to–the drum fills in “Neon Emotions” and “Take a Smooth Cruise” (among others) counterbalance those tracks’ dreamy sheens and keep one foot on the ground. Orange Whip Licorice closes with “New Dreamer”, the song in which Widener most leans into the organ tones, giving the record one last layered sendoff. (Bandcamp link)

Second Body – Fata Morgana

Release date: February 6th
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Folk rock, chamber pop, dream pop, indie rock
Formats: Digital
Pull Track: Summer Drive

Yann Geoffrey is a Montreal-based musician who has been playing in bands around the area for most of this century–he’s drummed for The Dears, Kill the Lights, and Pang Attack–but Second Body is the first time that Geoffrey has found himself at the helm of a project. Second Body’s debut record is the six-song Fata Morgana EP, featuring Geoffrey on vocals, guitar, percussion, synthesizer, and piano, as well as some notable contributions from his Kill the Lights/Pang Attack bandmate Alex Hackett on guitar and Suuns’ Liam O’Neill on drums, among others. Fata Morgana (which, at 25 minutes in length, is nearly a full-length record) is a charming collection of earnest, crystalline 2000s-era indie rock like that of the bands in which Geoffrey has previously played–and proof that he’s just as effective as the leader of this kind of band as he is behind the kit.

Opening track “Summer Drive” introduces Fata Morgana humbly but strongly, beginning with some sparkling indie pop before the song fully kicks in with a steady drumbeat, shimmering guitar lines, and full-sounding vocals from both Geoffrey and backing vocalist Josée Forsyth Morissette. Although Fata Morgana is a gentle-sounding record, it doesn’t fade into background music–the rhythm section in the title track is doing a lot of work behind Geoffrey’s sweeping vocals, and the jangle-rock of “Tiger Lily” is pretty but with a full-band forcefulness. The second half of the EP is even more laid-back, but it still features closing track “Voyeur”, in which Geoffrey and company go all-out with lengthy guitar interludes, some prominent 80s-evoking synths, and even a bit of alt-rock distortion towards the end. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

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