The Tea Club Return with Dense Pastoral Dejection on "If I Mean When" (premiere)

Photo courtesy of the artist

The Tea Club's latest single finds the quintet evoking classic folk rock artists in the midst of maintaining their knack for evocative songwriting and arrangements.

Pennsylvania is home to a multitude of outstanding progressive/art rock acts, but none infuse their powerfully intricate dynamics with the folk rock splendor of yesteryear quite like the Tea Club. Thus far, the quintet—Patrick McGowan (vocals/guitar), Dan Monda (drums), Joe Dorsey (keyboards), Dan McGowan (vocals, guitar), and Jamie Wolff (bass/violin/cello)—have shared the stage with the likes of Thank You Scientist, the Flower Kings, and Beardfish, as well as received praise from countless noteworthy publications (including PROG). On their latest single, "If I Mean When" (taken from their upcoming fifth LP, If / When), the band taps into their lusciously rustic and regretful side with a beautifully arranged acoustic ode that lingers long after it's over.

Of the track, songwriter Dan McGowan confesses, "I felt bombarded by hopelessness and cynicism from all directions. It felt like I was being attacked... I was trying to maintain hope, but I was being beaten down. So I started to come up with these lyrics that were like a caricature of that extreme hopelessness. Yeah, yeah, we're all going to die, and life is meaningless and everyone knows it, so why bother? It was my sarcastic way of pushing back, but I think I accidentally wound up saying something really sincere with it."

Likewise, Dorsey says that If / When as a whole deals with 'dichotomies like cynicism and hope', while Wolff hopes that the record "can be a way for listeners to connect with the all-encompassing beauty of life and that it can work against the tides of alienation in the world". With its piercingly impassioned guitar strums, resolute percussion, nostalgic piano chords, commanding vocals (including dense harmonies), and slight symphonic ether, it certainly achieves that intention. It channels the pastoral angst of classic CSNY, the Byrds, and Tom Petty while also clearly maintaining the Tea Club's DNA. Above all else, it cements their skill at prioritizing songwriting and succulent arrangements over anything else.

Take a listen to "If I Mean When" for yourself and let us know what you think! It's available now on all streaming platforms. Also, keep an eye out for If / When when it releases on 30 July.





Ivy Mix's 'Spirits of Latin America' Evokes the Ancestors

A common thread unites Ivy Mix's engaging Spirits of Latin America; "the chaotic intermixture between indigenous and European traditions" is still an inextricable facet of life for everyone who inhabits the "New World".


Contemporary Urbanity and Blackness in 'New Jack City'

Hood films are a jarring eviction notice for traditional Civil Rights rhetoric and, possibly, leadership -- in other words, "What has the Civil Rights movement done for me lately?"


'How to Handle a Crowd' Goes to the Moderators

Anika Gupta's How to Handle a Crowd casts a long-overdue spotlight on the work that goes into making online communities enjoyable and rewarding.


Regis' New LP Reaffirms His Gift for Grinding Industrial Terror

Regis' music often feels so distorted, so twisted out of shape, even the most human moments feel modular. Voices become indistinguishable from machines on Hidden in This Is the Light That You Miss.


DMA's Go for BritElectroPop on 'The Glow'

Aussie Britpoppers the DMA's enlist Stuart Price to try their hand at electropop on The Glow. It's not their best look.


On Infinity in Miranda July's 'Me and You and Everyone We Know'

In a strange kind of way, Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know is about two competing notions of "forever" in relation to love.


Considering the Legacy of Deerhoof with Greg Saunier

Working in different cities, recording parts as MP3s, and stitching them together, Deerhoof once again show total disregard for the very concept of genre with their latest, Future Teenage Cave Artists.


Joshua Ray Walker Is 'Glad You Made It'

Texas' Joshua Ray Walker creates songs on Glad You Made It that could have been on a rural roadhouse jukebox back in the 1950s. Their quotidian concerns sound as true now as they would have back then.


100 gecs Remix Debut with Help From Fall Out Boy, Charli XCX and More

100 gecs' follow up their debut with a "remix album" stuffed with features, remixes, covers, and a couple of new recordings. But don't worry, it's just as blissfully difficult as their debut.


What 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Taught Me About Unlearning Toxic Masculinity

When I first came out as trans, I desperately wanted acceptance and validation into the "male gender", and espoused negative beliefs toward my femininity. Avatar: The Last Airbender helped me transcend that.


Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi Remake "I Am the Antichrist to You" (premiere + interview)

Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi team up for a gorgeous live performance of "I Am the Antichrist to You", which has been given an orchestral renovation.


Rock 'n' Roll with Chinese Characteristics: Nirvana Behind the Great Wall

Like pretty much everywhere else in the pop music universe, China's developing rock scene changed after Nirvana. It's just that China's rockers didn't get the memo in 1991, nor would've known what to do with it, then.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.