More new music? Yes. This Pressing Concerns covers new albums from OMBIIGIZI and No Monster Club, the debut EP from Tomato Flower, and the recent Darto compilation. Rosy Overdrive’s January 2022 playlist also went up this week, so things are pretty busy ’round here.
OMBIIGIZI – Sewn Back Together
Release date: February 10th
Record label: Arts & Crafts
Genre: Indie rock, “Moccasin-gaze”
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Ookwemin
OMBIIGIZI is a collaboration between Adam Sturgeon of Status / Non Status and Daniel Monkman of Zoon, two Anishnabee artists who already sound in tune to one another on their debut record as a duo, Sewn Back Together. The album covers a lot of ground, from psychedelia to post-rock to dream pop and shoegaze. They cite some relatively off-the-beaten-path indie rock groups like The Sea and Cake and Eric’s Trip offshoot Elevator as inspiration, both of which I hear in the refreshing noise Sturgeon and Monkman make together. As sonically interesting as Sewn Back Together is, the record still feels lyrics-forward (or, at least, message-forward); some of the songs repeat a line or two hypnotically to drive things home, and some of the record’s wordier tracks necessitate (and are granted) breaks in the clouds.
Sewn Back Together opens with two songs that cover each of these aforementioned tactics—opening track “Ookwemin” is a meditative, dreamy entrance into the record, reminding me of “Find a Home” from the most recent Status / Non Status record, hovering on a few words and images in a tribute to Monkman’s late father, before the straightforward “Residential Military” lets its evocative lyrics ride up front. What follows are a few tracks that either fall into the vein of the record’s opening track (such as “Yaweh”) or its second one (like “Spirit in Me”), but with some left turns, like the vocal effects in “The Once Child” and in the closing of exhale “Zaagitoon”.
Sewn Back Together’s penultimate track, “Birch Bark Paper Trails”, is one of the most fascinating songs on the album. The climax of the record, it revisits the clear-eyed loud rock of “Residential Military” with more urgency, building up its tension with stop-starting guitar blasts. Veering between sinewy, almost-mathy rock and dreamier interludes, the song ends with a lengthy spoken word passage by Sturgeon that makes explicit and hammers home the familial bonds that show up in several of the record’s songs (“Ookwemin”, “Ogiin”, and “Spirit in Me”, most prominently). The words of “Birch Bark Paper Trails” find Sturgeon searching the Internet, registries, and archives for details on the past, the past of family, forefathers, his past—it is not the song from which the title Sewn Back Together is taken, but it’s perhaps the clearest instance of what OMBIIGIZI mean by it on the record. (Bandcamp link)
No Monster Club – Deadbeat Effervescent
Release date: February 11th
Record label: Emotional Response
Genre: Pop rock, twee, jangle pop
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: Save the Circus
Pulling a few indie rock subgenres together probably tells you less about what Dublin’s No Monster Club sound like than simply mentioning that they’re led by somebody who calls himself Sir Bobby Jukebox. I could say that their latest record, Deadbeat Effervescent, is “fully committed to taking the listener on a big, colorful pop-rock journey” or something, or just point out that its lead single is called “Save the Circus” and lives up to its title. Or that the song that succeeds it, “Black & White”, confidently deploys steel drums and chugging power chords in equal measure—and it’s just the first song of several to prominently utilize that arresting choice in percussion.
No Monster Club ends up reminding me more than anything of unsung indie pop hero Nick Thornburn of Islands and The Unicorns, alike both in their devotion to lighthearted and fun posturing (something underrepresented in modern indie rock, to be sure) and in the way that their influences remind me that any music they make is technically “island music” (Vancouver Island for Thorburn, Ireland for No Monster Club). Deadbeat Effervescent is a record with plenty of bells and whistles—aside from the aforementioned steel drums, we also get the bugle that introduces (of course) “A Bugle Call”, the brass marching of “The Trundling Path”, and the kiddie music tones and literal whistle on “Spaceman’s Gold”.
None of these choices end up excessive, though—or maybe they are excessive, in a good way. Whichever it is, there’s plenty going on beneath the surface sheen of these songs—“Save the Circus” is one dagger of a pop song from pretty much every angle, and the skittering surf-pop tune that follows the intro of “A Bugle Call” is another. Mr. Jukebox and company can’t resist combining effectively all of their tricks at the end of Deadbeat Effervescent; album closer “Walk the Plank” trots out a call-and-response hook, a steady, restrained power pop guitar line, siren synths, and several Stephin Merritt-worthy instrumental pop flourishes. All that, and it’s still genuinely surprising to me that it’s six minutes long. There must be some kind of Bermuda Triangle time warp going on there. (Bandcamp link)
Darto – Tolting
Release date: February 4th
Record label: Slow Thrive
Genre: Noise rock, post-punk
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Bottom Floor
The Snoqualmie Valley, Washington-originating duo of Darto have been making music together under that name since 2009—and the half-siblings who comprise the band, Candace Harter and Nicholas Merz, have played together for even longer than that. Their Pacific Northwest origins, frequently noisy and insular music, and the monotone male/female vocal interplay between Harter and Mertz all make Unwound comparisons fairly obvious. Darto dive a little further than that, though, as evidenced by the career-spanning cassette Tolting. The compilation’s sixteen songs come from various singles and non-album tracks spanning across the first decade of Darto’s existence (2009-2019).
Tolting opens with the dark, pounding “Bottom Floor”. It’s noise rock at its screechy best—only to be counterbalanced one track later by the minimalist psychedelia of “Fundamental and Slyme”. The mood effectively set, Tolting then begins its substantial survey of the music of Darto. A few of the tape’s tracks jump out immediately as highlights: the all-too-brief Harter-led noise pop of “World’s Worth”, the whispery slowcore of “Bay Area Man”, the slinking indie rock of “Pontius Pilot”, and a wall-of-sound epic in “Rite” that’s hidden towards the end. Repeated listening starts to reveal the merit of some of the “odder” tracks—like the way “Aging” marries a friendly synthpunk instrumental to one of Merz’s more unhinged deliveries, or the odd calm at the center of the droning “Apostate”. Tolting is a maze to get lost in. (Bandcamp link)
Tomato Flower – Gold Arc
Release date: February 11th
Record label: Ramp Local
Genre: Indie pop, psych pop, avant pop
Pull track: Red Machine
The psychedelic pop rock of Tomato Flower covers a lot of ground on their debut EP Gold Arc—one minute it’s lighter than air, moments later they’re pulling together something layered and busy. I probably could’ve guessed they’re from Baltimore. The group (a trio at the time of recording, now already a four-piece band) comes off a little more grounded in rock than more electronica-based groups from their base city, but more synth-friendly than most of their other forebearers—namely the more polished side of Elephant Six, and clear-eyed, harmony-heavy 2000s indie rock.
Gold Arc opens with about as friendly an entry point as one could hope for in the delicate, melody-driven “Red Machine”, and the stop-start “World to Come” isn’t far behind it in that department. The sub-90-second “Stone” is the other track that captures this side of Tomato Flower, further streamlining their take on indie rock down to swirling, spidery guitar work. They do this very well, and these songs are probably the EP’s clear highlights, but the songs that push a bit—the surprisingly amped-up psych-rock blast of “Truth Lounge” and the odyssey of closing track “Shying”, which turns Gold Arc’s core sound on its head—are what help the EP feel longer than its brief 13 minutes. (Bandcamp link)