What is it about heartland rock that feels everywhere these days? The gated drums of Phil Collins, the radio-worn reverb of Bruce Springsteen and cloying synths of Don Henley and Bryan Adams in the ’80s, not to mention the recent passing of Tom Petty—each instance feels like it’s coalesced into a particular moment recently, one where the messy histories of radio-ready, big-budget studio ballads and indie rock’s countercultural roots aren’t necessarily at odds. A 2009 essay in The Wire cited Henley as inspiration for the underground “hypnogogic pop” movement, but as fleeting buzzwords have come and gone with the blogs that birthed them, a new generation of musicians across the rock spectrum has found something special in the blissful kitsch of the past.
Wild Pink is the three-piece project of New York songwriter John Ross. The band’s self-titled debut album was released in 2017 by Tiny Engines, but they’ve technically been around for years in the form of Bandcamp demos and limited-run cassette releases. With all the makings of an emo act—mathy guitar lines, dusty lo-fi production, a soft Ben Gibbard-esque coo—the band’s become a regular fixture of the New York DIY circuit, but their latest effort continues the burgeoning affinity for ’80s Americana present on their last album, now with warm pedal steel and soaring, reflective synth lines.
“Lake Erie” could be a Tom Petty song. Describing the bleary-eyed minutiae of the waking city, Ross reflects on the passage of time in a relationship, looking for meaning in the fast-paced days. Lines about tote bag platitudes and Tumblr neurosis feel like updates on the “Jesus and America too” portraits of Petty—small-town characters fighting everyday monotony on and on indefinitely. “Meanwhile people on Tumblr unpack their neurosis / When all you ever wanted was the one you love the most not to suddenly leave,” Ross sings, whispered and personal in a way that feels huge.
Yolk in the Fur is out July 20 via Tiny Engines. Check out “Lake Erie” below.