Pressing Concerns: Gnawing, Brewster, Sumos, GracieHorse

It’s Monday! We’ve got four great new albums to wake you up in Pressing Concerns! New ones from Gnawing, Brewster, Sumos, and GracieHorse grace Rosy Overdrive today.

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.

Gnawing – Modern Survival Techniques

Release date: May 12th
Record label: Refresh
Genre: Alt-rock, 90s indie rock, fuzz rock, punk
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull Track: Gimme Tinnitus

Back in 2021, I wrote about You Freak Me Out, the debut album from Richmond 90s indie rock revivalists Gnawing. It was an intriguing record of Dinosaur Jr./early Nirvana-inspired fuzz rock with more than a bit of alt-country influence peeking out through the racket, all held together by the songwriting of John Russell. Since then, Gnawing have put out a live album, the one-off “Germs Burn” single, contributed a track to the Rock Against Bush split EP–and now the band has released their follow-up to You Freak Me Out, this month’s Modern Survival Techniques. If the tuneful noisiness of Gnawing’s first album appealed to you, their second one retains the same basic formula, although the band sounds a little more laid-back here–the fuzz is still present, to be sure, but Russell and his band (Christian Monroe, Garrett Whitlow, and Chris Matz) are content to let the songs shine through it more frequently, letting the writing take a bit more of a central role.

Gnawing kick things off with “Off Screen Death”, a song that certainly retains the band’s underground punk edge but presents it in just a slightly more clear package. Gnawing up the electricity on single “Gimme Tinnitus”, which contains a monster chorus and is perhaps the band’s most obvious “anthem” yet, and on “Clean Up Your Act”, which leans into the “slacker” band’s anxious and nervous side (it’s no accident that it gets a hardcore “redux” towards the record’s end). Russell delivers the “I need you to bulldoze me” line in “Bulldoze Me” in a surprisingly understated manner, but it works for the effortless-sounding fuzz-pop song, and “I Saw a Ghost” is a delicate guitar pop tune to which Gnawing give one of the most distorted treatments on the album. “Cool/Uncool” is Modern Survival Techniques‘ ballad–in context, it’s an incredibly weary-sounding and much-needed breather before the band sends everyone off with “Amherst Jam”, a seven-minute exploration that displays a new side to the group. (Bandcamp link)

Brewster – Honey Shake Me

Release date: April 7th
Record label: Fort Blanket
Genre: Alt-country
Formats: Digital
Pull Track: Best Western

Brewster are an alt-country-indie rock band from New Jersey led by singer-songwriter Mark Bucci. The band was initially Bucci’s solo project, but it has expanded considerably for Honey Shake Me, the second Brewster album. The spirited version of Brewster assembled for the recording of Honey Shake Me (Bucci accompanied by drummer Tom Devinko, pianist Chuck Bucci, pedal steel guitarist Tim Kelly, and lead guitarist Phelan Tupik) certainly adds a lot to the record’s songs. Bucci comes off as a very specific type of passionate music nerd in his writing, standing at the center of alt-country/“heartland rock”, power pop, and sincere indie rock in a way that is reminiscent of his East Coast peers in The Tisburys, Labrador, and The Human Fly, and reflects his influences like John K. Samson (who the band shout out in the description for the album) and Wilco (who Bucci explicitly references in “No One Told Us the Secret Yet”).

The sharp, sweeping twang-rock of “Me and My Somersaults” takes Bucci’s understated-feeling songwriting to a grand place to kick off Honey Shake Me, and Brewster transition to something a bit more subtle deftly with the Fender Rhodes-and-pedal-steel-led “No One Told Us the Secret Yet”. Brewster can offer up gently rolling dreamy-country tunes like “Red River Drive” and “Countryside”, but like a lot of the album’s subject matter, the band feels like they’re constantly traveling and moving–soon, they’re on to the emotive country rock of “Best Western”, or the gently but confident singalong of “Bound to See Headlights”. This type of music can have a tendency to fade into the background over time, but Brewster save some of Honey Shake Me’s best moments for the ending–namely, the upbeat rock and roll of “You Got to Give It When You Got It” and final track “An Easy Love to Leave”, which lingers on a couple memorable images before closing the book on Honey Shake Me. (Bandcamp link)

Sumos – Surfacing

Release date: May 12th
Record label: Meritorio/Safe Suburban Home
Genre: Indie pop, power pop, jangle pop
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull Track: Small Talk

Manchester’s Sumos have been around since their debut EP, Weird Summer, came out in 2020, but this month’s Surfacing is their first full-length album. They’re a four-piece group by now, evolving from the initial singer-songwriter-guitarist duo of Joel Sloan and Kyle Tarbuck to include rhythm section Siobhán Tarbuck (bass) and Andy Kilroy (drums). Accordingly, Surfacing is a pop album that sounds like it was recorded with a full band, with Sumos giving these nine songs an extra “kick” to them that serves the bucket of hooks they possess quite well. It’s a quite polished album, presenting pristine indie pop in both a clean-cut jangly college rock package as well as in some busier, surprisingly intricate forms.

The jangly “Small Talk” was the single that caught my attention initially, and the shimmery guitar lines and Sloan’s melodic vocals still make that song stand as an excellent achievement in guitar pop. The first half of Surfacing is full of strong pop songs that reach the same level of that track, from the gauntlet-throwing opener “Finding a Way” to the exuberant “Enemies” to ever-so-slightly melancholic “Blood Blisters”. The acoustic folk-pop of “Mostly Harmless” is a really big left-turn in the album’s center, and the almost-shoegaze noise-pop of “The Other One” a couple of songs later displays the other end of Sumos’ range. Both of those songs are still quite catchy, however, and they’re also buffered by two more “traditional” indie pop offerings from the band (“Come On Over” and “Quiet Place”). Under half an hour, Surfacing still covers plenty of ground. (Bandcamp link)

GracieHorse – L.A. Shit

Release date: May 19th
Record label: Wharf Cat
Genre: Alt-country, country rock
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital
Pull Track: Hollow Head

GracieHorse released an album under the name Gracie back in 2015, and she was also half of the Boston indie rock duo Fat Creeps for a good portion of the last decade. Now based in Los Angeles, Gracie Jackson has added a “Horse” to her stage name, embraced a rich country rock sound, signed to Wharf Cat Records, and made her first album in quite some time with the appropriately-titled L.A. Shit. GracieHorse enlisted a bunch of Southern California ringers to bring this album’s nine songs to life, including members of Ty Segall, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, and King Tuff’s bands, and the result is a record that’s full-sounding and laid-back, working well with GracieHorse’s songwriting.

As it’s been almost a decade since the Gracie album, it’s not too surprising to learn that some of the songs on L.A. Shit are fairly old. Nonetheless, GracieHorse and her band walk the tightrope of making these songs fit together without them blurring together quite nicely. The first half of L.A. Shit is an impressively varied collection of country-infused rock music, from the casual, windows-open first track “Hollow Head” to the sleek cowpunk of “By the Light of His White Stetson” to the polished balladry of “What I’m Missing” to the echoing folk of “Northwind”. Although L.A. Shit’s Side A is very well-executed, the album’s second half holds up pretty well on its own–my favorite from the flipside is closing track “Words of the New West”, the galloping closing track that acknowledges GracieHorse’s new West Coast home but, tellingly, still sounds like the writing of an outside observer rather than someone fully assimilated into it. (Bandcamp link)

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