Rapidfire Reviews: Topiary Creatures, Riley!, The Goalie’s Anxiety…, Oolong

Posted: by The Editor

Topiary Creatures – The Metaphysical Tech Support Hotline

Topiary Creatures’ 2022 You Can Only Mourn Surprises was a mosaic of a record, a hodgepodge in the best way, with each wacky musical idea working together to form a complete work of beauty that never ceases to reveal something new with each revisit. On The Metaphysical Tech Support Hotline from this March the group is no less maximalist, but there seems to be a more deliberate focus—a willingness to not just open a bunch of musical and lyrical pathways on the record, but to pick a few to follow further this time around. The result is a more complete and affecting record, with stuffy religious ideas clashing against modern sensibilities, the need for privacy battling with the fear of being alone, Michelangelo and the Medicis, ludicrously expensive sardines purchased in Austin, and envy of the relative freedom of worms popping up amidst crushing guitar parts, busy keys, loping acoustics, and some absolutely sick drumming that constantly steals your attention throughout.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Riley! – Keep Your Cool

It doesn’t take much of a leap of the imagination to picture Riley!’s Keep Your Cool soon becoming a touchstone record for the type of people who still get wide-eyed and take on a hushed reverence in their voices when talking about records like Cosmic Thrill Seekers and Somewhere City in 2024 (myself included here). Indeed, if Prince Daddy and Origami Angel are two of the more dominant, far-reaching bands in current punk and emo, Riley! lives in a sweet spot between those two groups’ sounds. All three bands have no trouble writing infectious songs that take one listen to ensnare the audience while also shredding their heads off, and on Keep Your Cool, Riley! deftly keeps one foot in the raging and catchy self-deprecating Prince Daddy feel, with the other in the hypnotically riffy world of Origami Angel. To this middle ground of punchy palm mutes and cascading runs, they add a bit of twang and haze, vocals that don’t lose their strength in their rawness, and an energy that never really dips in the record’s quick run. There is no real “high point” here, as the record rips from start to finish, but the run of “Ego Peek Mid,” “Die Mad,” and “Eat Your Heart Out” is a solid snapshot of the great heights Riley! are waving down from on Keep Your Cool

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick – The Iliad and the Odyssey and the Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick

The Iliad and the Odyssey and the Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick is full of elegant and expansive songs that take their time in building up to the more exuberant moments. It’s as if the group first needs to use the more sparsely adorned parts of the songs to create the empty space to then be filled with punchy percussion and gorgeous strings that feel like the proverbial warm blanket. The acoustic guitar likewise has an almost comforting sound to it, giving you an innate sense that this how acoustic guitars are really supposed to sound on such a record. Within this warm soundscape, Goalie drop in images of wasted Decembers, simple times keeping a loved one company while they finish a beer, and anti-war protests that become disheartening as “the people on the other side keep dying anyway.” The whole thing has an intimate, tactile sense to it—not so much that you feel as if “you were in the room while they recorded it,” but more like you happened to pass by an open apartment window on a spring day to catch a snippet of something beautiful and immediate.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Oolong – Oolong

One of my favorite records that doesn’t get talked about much is Two Cow Garage’s The Death of the Self-Preservation Society. On top of the great, aged-like-wine songwriting, there’s an energy to the way the band plays on the record where you can’t shake the feeling that the whole thing just might fall apart and crash into the ground at any moment. Not that the band isn’t tight and playing off each other well, but rather that the energy buzzing beneath the songs is so intense that it almost feels untenable for any significant amount of time—even in its quieter and more restrained moments. On their new self-titled record, Oolong is not only able to imbue that same restless, galvanizing energy to their tunes, but also to keep that stunning pace up through 21 tracks stretching to nearly an hour. It’s an impressive feat, with each instrumentalist sounding almost like they’re sequestered in their own corner of the song, but with everything meshing perfectly and no one getting in the way of anyone else no matter how busy the guitar and bass lines are, or how creative and deceptively loose the drumming gets. It’s the kind of record that would be in danger of devolving into a sloppy mess in the hands of a lesser band, but in Oolong’s hands it’s likely to be one of the better emo records to come out this year.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Aaron Eisenreich | @slobboyreject

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