Album Review

Sheer Mag - Playing Favorites

Sheer Mag are still skilled at creating a vibe, and this time around it’s a positively fun one.

Sheer Mag - Playing Favorites

Three albums in, and Sheer Mag’s unrivalled ability to incite anemoia - the specific term for nostalgia for a time one’s never lived in, fact fans - shows no signs of stopping. The Philadelphians’ use of bread-and-butter classic rock riffs and deceptively immediate hooks, fed through production that’s simultaneously 21st Century precise and still exudes a vinyl-like warmth often makes like an episode of Quantum Leap; a portal to the kind of down’n’dirty dive bar somewhere in a indeterminate part of America that may in reality only exist on screen. But there’s a fine line between using a formula and sticking to it, and it’s the smart way in which Sheer Mag do the former that makes ‘Playing Favorites’ so enthralling.

The chugging guitars of ‘I Gotta Go’ may have the unequivocal air of unironic double denim, but they’re paired with ‘60s pop melodies and an almost Motown strut to enjoyable effect. ‘Paper Time’ marries a punk chorus with ‘50s doo-wop backing vocals and chord changes, while the gang vocals of ‘All Lined Up’, a track which sits halfway between driving AM radio soft rock and ‘The Hustle’ in its disco sound, both provide an immediate hook and echo New York post-punkers Parquet Courts at their most funky. And, whether as reflection or instigation, ‘Mechanical Garden’ sounds like literal time-travel, its classic riff breaking down into dreamy, filmic strings before ‘80s glittery synths appear and the song transforms further, into another funky shuffle. And still, with their solid sonic palette, it all sounds cohesive - not least because of Tina Halladay’s vocals which, while still possessing the roar that made the group’s name, have moments that are affectingly soft. Take closer ‘When You Get Back’: a sentimental number with a ‘50s-via-’70s premise that could fit right in on the ‘Grease’ soundtrack. The best of the bunch, of course, is the pop moment of ‘Moonstruck’, with its enviable earworm of a chorus and sense of pure joy. Sheer Mag are still skilled at creating a vibe, and this time around it’s a positively fun one.

Tags: Sheer Mag, Reviews, Album Reviews

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