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Artist of the Month
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November 2014
Sheer Mag
"7"
"
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Relatively new outfit, South Philly’s Sheer Mag, fronted by The Shakes’ Christina Halladay, wastes no time with filler on their debut 7”. The four-track release is equal parts garage and punk bravado.
 
“What You Want” kick-starts the record with jangly percussion and pristinely fuzzed-out riffs. As the song’s melody unfolds, Halladay’s screamed-out, heartfelt vocals recount and flawlessly capture the dissonance of romantic antics and their aftermath. Guitar-drenched interludes and buzzing drums reminiscent of Colleen Green, circa Cujo, and early demos by Bleached render the piece memorable, while noisy shreds near the three-minute mark bring to mind the lo-fi glory of the Useless Eaters’ Daily Commute.
 
Sheer Mag’s “Sit and Cry” is bittersweet and abrasive. Opening with crisply executed riffage, the second track off the band’s EP audibly embodies the malaise of its namesake. Halladay’s vocals, coupled with trippy distortion, amplify the emotional nuance of the release as a whole. As “Sit and Cry” nears its end, chords morph into reverb as she croons “cry, cry.” Soon after, the satisfyingly moody “Point Breeze” begins. Starting off with a rhythmic drive evocative of Cousin Brian or Throwing Up, the undertone of “Point Breeze” captivates listeners nostalgic for Slutever’s Pretend to Be Nice. Crisp with caustic yet earnest diction by Halladay, the song is energetically catching from start to end.
 
The album’s closer, “Hard Lovin,” is gritty, like a mellowed-out Bobbyteens’ B-side. Shaking tambourine and whining guitar lines perfectly compliment her rowdy vocals as the song progresses. Thematically, “Hard Lovin” is a kindred spirit to acts like No Bunny or Hunx and His Punx. It’s a song for romantics with a penchant for rock ‘n’ roll. It’s an anthem.
 
Overall, Sheer Mag's debut release is brief. Despite this, the four-song EP is more than enough to wet the appetites of their soon-to-be adoring fans. - Dianca Potts

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The Deli Philly’s October Album of the Month: Soft Fall - Sun Airway

The Deli Philly’s October Album of the Month: Soft Fall - Sun Airway

Versailles and French Surrealism are cited as influences for Sun Airway’s sophomore full-length album, Soft Fall. Yeah, pretty much: with lush arrangements and massive textures of sound, Soft Fall, is a giant, gorgeous record decked with chopped-up classical music samples and hooks that envelop the listener. Sun Airway’s all-encompassing sense of maximalism echoes what M83 did last year on Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, making the familiar, comfortable turns of pop music vibrant and fresh by infusing some reverb and a soothing synth-tone. The result is a record that feels safe - not safe in the sense that it’s dull and afraid to take risks, but safe in the way that home feels safe, in the way you know the roads, the haunts, the people, and intrinsically understand that you’re not in any danger.
 
Yep, we’re in dream-pop territory, and Sun Airway’s Jon Barthmus plays admirably to the genre’s strengths. Guitar and keyboard lines come together like coast and tide - the line definitely there but impossible to define. Governing it all is Barthmus’ smooth, breathy baritone, which is seductive without flair for dramatics. On album highlight “Close,” he sighs “you’ve never known loneliness before/I tried to get close to you,” which sounds pretty glum, but the song itself is practically ecstatic. The work on that is done by breakneck drums, an impressionistic Cure hook and a guitar occasionally squealing gleefully in the background. Barthmus’ understated vocals give the song room to soar, and soar it does; it’s an absolutely killer tune. Instrumental interludes are scattered throughout the LP guiding you to and from other standouts on the record like “Wild Palms” and “Symphony In White No. 2” (that also appeared together last year on the 7” vinyl single that followed the band’s beautiful debut Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier).
 
As is often the case with dream-pop, the sonic palette that washes melodic lines together eventually extends to the songs themselves, and while Soft Fall is never boring, the distinctions between individual tracks become less and less vital as the album gels into one solid artistic statement, which makes Soft Fall a perfect little record to escape with. It’s a great way to drop menial anxieties for nearly 45 minutes and enter a pleasant state where nothing will frighten you and you’re comfortably safe as can be making any fall more enjoyable as you take in the sights from above. Soft Fall officially drops tomorrow via Dead Oceans. - Adam Downer
 

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