Socially Engaged Pop of the Sheer Mag

Socially Engaged Pop of the Sheer Mag

Adriana SaboFriday,1 May 2015

Hand made, lo-fi pop with just a hint of post punk. In a sentence, this is how one could describe the EP by Sheer Mag that was published through Katorga Works / Wilsuns RC in mid April. But, to do justice to the sound they are notable for requires a bit more words. Their music sounds as if it was made in someone’s bedroom, recorded with some really bad equipment, which gives it the unique, recognizable vibe. When you listen to their latest EP — titled II 7” — you feel as if the sound is coming out of an old seventies radio that isn’t working really well and you are instantly transported through history, into a different world.

II 7″ is thus, a perfect example of a simulacrum. Sheer Mag offers you the feeling of being in one of the past, legendary decades of rock’n’roll, yet at the same time, their means of expression are completely contemporary, and so are the emotions described in lyrics. Their music sounds as if it were retro, but it is not. This sound is made especially “squeaky” and gritty by Christina Halladay’s voice, which is perfectly complementary to the lo-fi sound of the recording. As she revealed, most of her songs — and she did write the lyrics for II 7” — are a proof of a “struggle of living in a city when [she] was raised in a small town—and sometimes wondering why [she’s] there,” and this duality between two worlds understood as opposed to one another is precisely what defines Sheer Mag’s music. In comparison to their previous release, titled simply 7”, the second 7” is more political and more engaged with social questions.

“Fan the Flames,” the first track on the album, begins with a beat and with a truly r’n’r guitar riff. The music is positive and energetic, yet the lyrics tell a different story, describing the crappy conditions in which some of the people residing in cities live. They paint this picture perfectly, but they also invite change: “That’s the man you gotta give it to/we pay him our rent to have a hole in our roof/and when our neighbors burned/it was only because of telephone cords (…) you’ve got to fan the flames/you’ve got to stand up and break the chains/make a plan and demand what the damage pays /fan the flames.” Same can be said for the second track, “Travelin on,” that continues on the same road of strong beats and imaginative riffs, with Halladay’s voice sometimes gritting a hole in your stomach. Especially when you hear her singing words like “the days been growing stranger/I been holdin’ up fists of rage and I need a change.” Both of the remaining two tracks speak of hardship and loneliness, rage and determination, love and betrayal. “Whose Side Are You On” is a bit sadder, yet keeps the same vibe as the previous songs, while “Button Up” offers the perfect end to this story: “I won’t bow my head to another man/I won’t bite my lip and curtsy/what’s binding us together/ain’t no common sense or decency.”

Make no mistake, despite the pop-like melodies and positive music, II 7″ is not to be taken lightly. The sharp, piercing vocals tell a story that is deep and painful. It’s a story that many of us can relate to.


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Hat Tips:

Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Pitchfork, Image Credit: Flickr

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