Album Review: String Machine – Hallelujah Hell Yeah

On Hallelujah Hell Yeah, Pittsburgh based ‘maximalist indie-rock’ band String Machine sound almost timeless. For their third full-length album, the seven-piece collective, led by singer-songwriter David Beck, are able to put together nine tracks that draw as much from seventies pop traditions as early 2000s indie-rock, blending them into a fresh mixture of rollicking grooves, blaring horns and earnest folk music. It’s a combination that comes off as both nostalgic and current at the same time.

String Machine aren’t an entirely original sounding outfit—anyone who was around during the mid 2000s indie folk explosion will have plenty of reference points—they just happen to be very good at what they do. The band uses a laid-out blueprint as a jumping off point, but veers into their own lane shortly thereafter. It’s a fine line to walk, but fortunately String Machine never fall victim to the tropes that many of their peers do.

On Hallelujah Hell Yeah, the songs are introspective but not depressing, upbeat but not joyous, infectious but not saccharine. Finding that balance is the key to String Machine’s draw. Throughout the record, the band sprinkles in a wide range of instrumentation, from piano and guitar to string and horn arrangements, blending them in creative and seamless ways. The same approach is found in the meshing of vocal styles—Beck’s smoky timbre is often rounded out by Laurel Wain’s ethereal accompaniment, creating an endearing paradoxical dynamic.

While the band calls themselves “maximalist indie-rock,” the record is never overbearing. For all of the instrumentation and dense arrangements, Hallelujah Hell Yeah boasts a surprisingly warm and inviting production. Even when the band delves into a bout of angular noise, it’s all still very approachable. There may be a lot going on, but it’s all clearly audible and distinguishable.

String Machine are smart and capable musicians and while their influences may be easily recognizable, the band has enough creativity to forge their own identity. Fans of Secretly Canadian and Saddle Creek Records artists will find plenty to like about Hallelujah Hell Yeah.

Hallelujah Hell Yeah is out February 25.  Order it here

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