Pressing Concerns: Poppy Patica, Greg Mendez, Soft Walls, Bluest

If you like good music, tomorrow is pretty big Friday. Today we’re looking at four records that come out tomorrow: albums from Poppy Patica, Greg Mendez, Soft Walls, and Bluest. Also out tomorrow is the Lynx reissue (with a newly-recorded bonus EP), which I wrote about along with Mister Data, Unlettered, and The National Honor Society earlier this week. Also, the Rosy Overdrive April 2023 playlist went up earlier this week, too. Definitely check that one out.

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.

Poppy Patica – Black Cat Back Stage

Release date: May 5th
Record label: House of Joy
Genre: Power pop, 90s indie rock, indie pop
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull Track: Awful Sound

Peter Hartmann currently lives in Oakland, and spent some time in Ohio and New York as well, but the latest record from his band Poppy Patica deals with his original home of Washington, D.C. Hartmann has been making music as Poppy Patica for about a decade, but the current iteration of the band (also including drummer/synth player Nikhil Rao, organist/vocalist Chloe M, and bassist Jeremy Ray) took shape over the past five years. Black Cat Back Stage (which, as any longtime D.C. music fan will probably be able to recognize, is named for a now-defunct local venue), coming after a string of self-recorded and -released records, takes advantage of full band backing. Although these recordings place Hartmann’s songwriting front and center, the songs are dressed up with a style that combines Hartmann’s 90s indie rock musical style with deep, layered synths and organs brought forward by the other members.

Black Cat Back Stage opens with a perfect indie-pop-rock tune in “Awful Sound”, a track that excellently synthesizes the ramshackle poppiness of Stephen Malkmus at his most accessible with some sparkling new wave-y synths. The rest of the record is no less catchy, but it pulls this off in a less straightforward manner. Poppy Patica seem to take influence from D.C.-area bands like Dismemberment Plan and Q and Not U who would twist their pop songs into multiple movements–it also reminds me of Personal Space’s math-pop-rock touches. Even the briefer songs like “Top” and “Mystery Meat” zip from one part to another (the one non-Harmann-penned song, the excellent M-led “Band Aid”, is one of the more immediate songs, but it also stops and starts in a way that makes it fit in with the others).

“Sweetest Song” rides some wrinkly fuzz rock for Hartmann to deliver a sprawling lyric over which the national’s capitol (and, yes, the capital that flows through it) hovers. D.C. pops up again and again throughout Black Cat Back Stage, although it’s the climax of “Demolition Order” that finds Poppy Patica really locking into it. The bio for this record refers to it as a “mini-opera”; in this case, in “Demolition Order”, Hartmann wanders the city, staring down its buildings while following a long train of thought about what it’s becoming (“Displacement’s not development….It’s just a new colony / Bulldozing through the city”). Poppy Patica excel at stretching the track out, which they do again well in closing track “Kiwi”, a song that starts out in a weird new wave-y place and somewhat morphs into a golden pop chorus. It’s complex in form, but not to take in. (Bandcamp link)

Greg Mendez – Greg Mendez

Release date: May 5th
Record label: Forged Artifacts/Devil Town Tapes
Genre: Indie folk, slowcore
Formats: Vinyl, cassette, digital
Pull Track: Best Behavior

I’ve never written about a Greg Mendez album before on Rosy Overdrive, but the Philadelphia singer-songwriter has appeared on this website before as a member of Snowhore and as a contributor to Welcome To…, a various-artists compilation from Devil Town Tapes. Devil Town Tapes is co-releasing Greg Mendez, the artist’s third full-length record (although Mendez’s Bandcamp illustrates that he’s made a lot more music beyond his “proper” albums). Greg Mendez has been getting some really organic-feeling hype recently, and part of why it feels like that is because it doesn’t sound like a traditional hype-getting record–it’s a lot subtler, quieter, and less openly concerned with being immediately liked.  Greg Mendez is, loosely, an indie folk record with some classical pop touches and some moments (like the organ-and-vocals “Sweetie”) that sound a little Jeff Mangum-influenced–but mainly, the album sounds like whatever Greg Mendez thinks serves the song best.

“Rev. John / Friend” opens the record by building into something befitting its bittersweet refrain, and “Maria” and “Goodbye / Trouble” shuffle into pleasing lo-fi indie rock. Greg Mendez hides a shocking amount of its best moments towards the end–the final three songs are my favorites. “Clearer Picture (Of You)”, “Best Behavior”, and “Hoping You’re Doing Okay” are all really raw, close-cutting songs that very bluntly deal with the hurt that can only arise from being intimate (in some form another) with someone. It’s not exactly similar songcraft-wise, but “Clearer Picture (Of You)” hits on Exile on Guyville-level subject matter, and “Hoping You’re Doing Okay” genuinely does sound like Elliott Smith. The pin-drop quiet of “Best Behavior” is the best of the bunch–hearing Mendez sing “I’m on my best behavior, do you like it?” feels chilling in a too-personal way. There are a lot of good songs about sad subject matter, but Greg Mendez is a truly masterful example of spinning ugliness into prettiness. (Bandcamp link)

Soft Walls – True Love

Release date: May 5th
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Psych rock, post-punk, shoegaze, garage rock
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull Track: Waking

Dan Reeves was in the Brighton post-punk group Cold Pumas, and he has more recently made music on his own as Soft Walls. With Soft Walls, Reeves is a deft practitioner of a recognizable strain of indie rock–fuzzy and warm-sounding, lightly psychedelic, folk- and shoegaze-sounding without falling cleanly into any of those genres, informed by krautrock and post-punk but still pop-friendly at its core (an earlier Soft Walls album was released by Trouble in Mind, which feels like a good a reference point as any for Reeves’ music).  True Love is the fourth Soft Walls full-length, and it’s fully committed to mining this fertile niche of music Reeves has carved for himself. Tracks flow into one another cleanly–I’m as likely to come away with a favorite guitar or harmonic “moment” than I am with a favorite song on any given listen to the record.

True Love opens with “A Whisper in Your Ear”, a mid-tempo, distorted rocker that’s kind of Soft Walls’ version of garage rock (a mode that Reeves returns to later in the just-as-good “Calling Out Your Name”). “How Long Am I Waiting” kicks off side two with the biggest krautrock-influenced moment, barreling through an alt-rock instrumental that rises and falls along with Reeves’ relatively quiet vocals. True Love’s forays into lazy-sounding but substantial folk rock are equally rewarding– “It’s Not Complicated” and the title track nail this sound early on, and “Goodbye Harmony” also climbs into this mode before descending into pure psychedelia. The psychedelic feeling shades pretty much all of True Love (I’m particularly partial to the Meat Puppets-y riff that colors “Waking”), and it’s a nice companion to Reeves’ more grounded, steady-tempoed influences. (Bandcamp link)

Bluest – Cold Sweat

Release date: May 5th
Record label: Anything Bagel
Genre: Folk rock
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull Track: Talk Soon

Anything Bagel is a pretty neat cassette label based out of Missoula, Montana–they’ve already put out one of my favorite albums of the year so far (Oregon III by Portland’s Vista House), and their latest record is a solid offering that also originates from the Garden City. Bluest is a Missoula band led by Noelle Huser, a sharp pop singer-songwriter who makes music incorporating 90s alt-rock, indie pop, alt-country, and “adult alternative”–they cite Sheryl Crow, whose influence I do hear on Cold Sweat, their debut record. The album’s eight songs are melancholic pop rockers–fully-developed, but never too busy to detract from Huser’s words and voice.

Cold Sweat has dreamy pop rock tunes in spades–it opens with the bright and shiny “Sagittarius”, and Husey really throws everything they’ve got into the earworm of “Anemic”. The first half of Cold Sweat goes does easy in this fashion, although I have to commend Bluest for mixing it up a bit on the second side. “Ghosts” and the title track find the band getting louder, trending towards distorted fuzz rock (especially in the latter) while still being pretty poppy, and “Practical Magic” closes the album on a really surprising turn towards synthpop/sophisti-pop. My favorite song on Cold Sweat is the sparsest one, musically–penultimate track “Talk Soon” is a mostly-acoustic piece of folk-country that hits the specific area that usually only Waxahatchee can reach for me. Overall, it’s an eminently likable record from an artist with a lot of promise. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

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