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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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Album Review: Science & Advice - The Armchairs

Album Review: Science & Advice - The Armchairs

It should be readily apparent to anybody with a working set of eardrums that The Armchairs fall firmly in the same camp as a handful of other 60s-esque pop acts cropping up. But where exactly they draw inspiration from is somewhat more of a mystery, because this certainly isn't the simple pairing of Beatles and Beach Boys that we've come to expect. Instead, we're treated to an odd menagerie of Zombies, Kinks, and earlier, goofier Floyd (you know, before the rest of the band decided not to pickup Syd). This is a slight, but welcome, change of pace, and what's even more welcoming is the way they throw it all together. It seems that most bands, when under these prestigious influences, would either a) condense it all into pure power-pop confectionery or b) partake in the more indulgent qualities of psychedelia, to the point of tedium. The Armchairs manage to land it somewhere right in between, a sweet spot of controlled lunacy.

Opener "Grampa Yells Portents at Strangers" starts things off right with crazily shifting time signatures and vocal harmonies. It kind of feels like four songs in one, which proves representative of the album's feel as a whole; tracks are short, almost fragmented, but still intense and fully realized. If there's any obvious single, it's "Little Sammy Ghetz" which begins and ends with an irresistible interlocking guitar riff that makes it hard not to get some muscles twitching.

But The Armchairs seem to know better than to trifle with too many obvious hooks. Why do it the easy way when you can do it the fun way? This is an album populated by guitars, alternately crunchy and spacey, awesomely analog-sounding synths, and joyous harmonies. But it's also populated by mind-melting freakouts like "What For My Cow Eating There?" and tracks like the forty-nine second punk explosion "Harrison Ford". So, to get to the heart of it, Science & Advice is a record that manages to do all of these things with such panache making the album an impressive debut by the oddball but loveable quartet. You can stream and download the album here or purchase it at Punk Rock Payroll where it will come packaged in a handmade travel pillow - perfect for those partiers who never know where they’ll pass out at. (Cover art by Vincent Finazzo) - Joe Poteracki

 

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