Pressing Concerns: Ther, Cindy, Dave Scanlon, Sweet Dreams Nadine

Pressing Concerns is back and guess what? There’s a lot of good music coming out tomorrow (April 14th). Today we’re looking at four of these albums: records from Ther, Cindy, Dave Scanlon, and Sweet Dreams Nadine. If you missed Monday’s post (covering Bell and the Ringers, Public Interest, Pure Material, and Second Body), 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.

Ther – A Horrid Whisper Echoes in a Palace of Endless Joy

Release date: April 14th
Record label: Dead Definition
Genre: Indie folk, slowcore
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull Track: Big Papi Lassos the Moon

Although I haven’t written about Ther on this blog before, Rosy Overdrive has covered plenty of music in which Heather Jones has been involved. As the owner of and engineer at So Big Auditory in Philadelphia, they’ve recorded, mixed, and mastered records from plenty of bands, including Sadurn, They Are Gutting a Body of Water, The Human Fly, Florry, and Frankie Valet. Jones has also been making music of their own as Their since 2018, with Ther’s debut full-length, Trembling, coming out last February after a couple of EPs and a split with Sadurn.

Trembling was an intriguing piece of indie folk-tronica which got Ther on my radar–fourteen months later, A Horrid Whisper Echoes in a Palace of Endless Joy follows up that album by taking a turn towards quiet and sparse but quite spirited-sounding indie folk. A Horrid Whisper Echoes in a Palace of Endless Joy falls under the umbrella of a certain kind of vulnerable, stark-sounding folk music that I’ve featured in Pressing Concerns before–records from Joan Kelsey, Jodi, and (coincidentally) Dave Scanlon come to mind–but Jones establishes themself in the midst of this well-worn setup pretty quickly. After the brief, slow-takeoff introduction of “1 Kid”, Ther deliver “Big Papi Lassos the Moon”, a soaring folk tune that builds, speeds up, and crescendos in an unexpected but very welcome way.

A Horrid Whisper Echoes in a Palace of Endless Joy is guided by Jones’ unwavering, central vocals, but Ther find shades within their folk sound, like the prominent pedal steel in the country-tinged “Impossible Things” and the sparse acoustic-picked slowcore of “Love Is Always”. The album does anything but trail off, with “With You” riding distortion, cello, and piano towards Ther’s version of post-rock or a Microphones-recalling sound, and “2 Holidays” ending A Horrid Whisper Echoes in a Palace of Endless Joy on a twinkling piece of alt-country. The latter’s pedal steel guitar and the appearance of a stray cat in the lyrics give the song a warm feeling–more than enough for Jones to dismiss the whisper in the album title. (Bandcamp link)

Cindy – Why Not Now?

Release date: April 14th
Record label: Mt.St.Mtn./Tough Love
Genre: Indie pop, slowcore, dream pop
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull Track: Earthly Belonging

Karina Gill has become a Bay Area guitar pop fixture in the past few years between her work with Flowertown (her duo with Tony Jay’s Mike Ramos) and Cindy, the San Francisco group that Gill has led for four full-length records now. The previous Cindy material had been made with a stable quartet lineup, but for this month’s Why Not Now?, Gill opted to work with a wider variety of musicians, including Ramos, longtime Cindy keyboardist Aaron Diko, and members of other Bay Area bands like The Telephone Numbers and April Magazine. Regardless of who contributed to Why Not Now?, Cindy retain their signature sound on the album–that of molasses-slow, somewhat-drowsy-feeling, Velvets-inspired indie rock that nevertheless has personality and pop appeal.

Plenty of San Francisco-area bands that could be loosely deemed “jangle pop” make music that falls on the sleepy, “dream pop” end of the spectrum, but Cindy follows this alleyway so deliberately and languidly that it’s genuinely correct to call them a slowcore band.  Gill and her collaborators are almost confrontational in their slowness with how they open Why Not Now? The whispered lullaby of the title track and the dreamy instrumental track “Standard Candle 3” welcome the listener wearily before the band relents a little bit and offers up the relatively peppy, brief “Earthly Belonging” in the track three slot.

Gill’s voice sticks out on songs like “Wednesday” and “A Trumpet on the Hillside”, cutting through the quietness while still matching the overall feeling of the tracks. Cindy feels very much in their element with the sparse “Playboy”, but, perhaps determined to not let Why Not Now? drift off too casually in its final few songs, the band offers up some Flying Nun-esque psych-tinged indie rock with “Et surtout” and closes the album with a pleasing duet in “St. Marks”. Still, the record’s overall tone is quite subtle–Why Not Now? is an album that asks and rewards a little more attention. (Bandcamp link)

Dave Scanlon – Taste Like Labor

Release date: April 14th
Record label: Whatever’s Clever
Genre: Indie folk, experimental folk
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull Track: Collapse

Back in early 2021, Dave Scanlon released Pink in each, bright blue, bright green, which was one of the first albums I ever wrote about for Pressing Concerns. That record was a deft indie folk record, minimal-sounding, emotional, and experimental, with none of those aspects seeming to contradict each other. Returning on Whatever’s Clever Records (Keen Dreams, Field Guides, Ben Seretan), Scanlon is back two years later with Taste Like Labor, an album that demonstrates that the singer-songwriter (who also plays in the band JOBS and is a librarian) still has a knack for finding interesting ways to make acoustic guitar-centric music. Taste Like Labor feels more full-sounding than Scanlon’s previous material, which he attributes to Stars Like Fleas’ Shannon Fields, who produced the record and contributed piano, synthesizer, and electronics to these songs as well.

Taste Like Labor is not a huge departure sonically for Scanlon–several of the record’s early tracks, like “Image Represent”, Collapse”, and “Why Do You Ask?”, are all familiar-sounding, fingerpicked straightforward acoustic folk songs, just with some more synth touches added underneath them. The gorgeous second-half highlight “I Am With My Feelings” in particular would’ve felt right at home on Pink in each, bright blue, bright green. Other songs on the album more clearly take advantage of the extra dimension to explore some new territory–the giddy folk rock of “Fearful People” is able to take off as smoothly as it does with the added instrumentation, the floating “Thus Went My Year” substitutes the guitar for synth washes, and the six-minute “Only” finds a lot of room to spread out, effectively turning into an ambient song by its end. (Bandcamp link)

Sweet Dreams Nadine – Sweet Dreams Nadine

Release date: April 14th
Record label: Dear Life
Genre: Indie pop
Formats: CD, cassette, digital
Pull Track: Indigo

New York’s Sweet Dreams Nadine debuted in 2018 with Oh My, a full-length record released on Father/Daughter records under the name NADINE. Now on Dear Life, Sweet Dreams Nadine have a new name that’s meant to emphasize the band’s nature as a collaborative trio (frontperson Nadie Hulett co-wrote these tracks with the other two members of the group, Carlos Hernandez and Julian Fader of Ava Luna), and a new self-titled sophomore album. Sweet Dreams Nadine is full of bright, intricate but welcoming indie pop, feeling of a piece with both Hernandez and Fader’s other group and with the NADINE album. Hulett’s voice, as well as all the members’ pop instincts and instrumental acumen, give the album a timeless pop rock feel, although it doesn’t lapse into overdone “retro” fetishism.

“Something on My Mind” opens Sweet Dreams Nadine with some friendly, immediate piano pop, with a bunch of extra flourishes making it one of the more captivating examples of the genre. “Indigo” somehow evokes Americana without mixing up Sweet Dreams Nadine’s sound all that much, while “Painted Blue” merely turns everything up a bit to turn in a swirling psychedelic pop tune. The gentle, lush “Weird Love” nonetheless lives up to its name, ending with a decidedly memorable spoken word moment from Hulett. Hulett’s delivery of the title line of “Make Good” is the instantly catchy part, but it’s the subtler rest of the song that grows on you over time. The second half of Sweet Dreams Nadine is maybe less immediate than the first, but makes up for it with a few curveballs, like the rhythm-heavy, partially Hernandez-sung “Track Star” and the simple “sdn”, both of which ensure the album is engaging until its end. (Bandcamp link)

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