Album Premiere: String Machine—’Death of the Neon’

Posted: by The Editor

Photo by: David McCandless Photography

If I were a betting man, I’d wager that String Machine are the future of indie-rock, and for two reasons. The first is that, from a critical standpoint, everything the Pittsburgh seven-piece are doing on their magnificent sophomore record Death of the Neon is in precise accordance with many the broader genre’s current trends. Their sound is rooted in the most ambitious entries of the emo revival canon; the warm jet post-rock of The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, the Sistine Chapel grandiosity of Foxing, and the green pasture pop-punk of The Hotelier (in spirit more than sound). That’s their foundation, but the actual leaves of their sound, so to speak, share coloration with the communal alt-country of Pinegrove, the highway-during-dusk indie of Fire Is Motion, the tingly dream-folk of (Sandy) Alex G, and the quirky woodsiness of Spencer Radcliffe & Everyone Else. Oh, and they owe a great deal to early Arcade Fire but the flattery never veers into derivative aping.

The second reason I’d gamble that String Machine are prepared for international embrace is that they combine all of these vogue attributes in a way that’s incomparably genuine. They sound like they’ve been studying these styles and honing their sound long before anyone declared them ~blog-hype cool~, and by that token they’re simply better at emoting these sonics than nearly anyone else in their field.

It’s almost too fitting that String Machine hail from just outside of Pittsburgh, an area that stands in strikingly rural contrast to the post-industrial landscapes of the city limits—a setting that’s long fueled rumbling post-punk, crust-punk, and hardcore scenes, as well as an underratedly vigorous emo community. String Machine sound nothing like the drinking-in-a-cemetery aesthetic that local semi-legends The Gotobeds wear in a recent Bandcamp profile of the city. On the contrary, String Machine are the band who’d be playing the breathlessly choreographed and oddly celebratory pagan burial at said graveyard. To paint a picture, the beaming joyousness of Midsommar’s least bloody and most jovial dance numbers.

Death of the Neon is maximalist indie-rock on a budget in which “for-broke” comes twice as quickly as it would for a signed-to-a-hip-indie band. It sounds positively gorgeous but it sounds painstakingly slaved over, as if perfection (of the arrangements, performances, and production) was the only option. There’s not a shred of slackerism or artistic looseness. Each climax is tuned to be exponentially more gripping than the last, each moment of soft respite starker than the one before, and each colorful harmony as vivid and physically gratifying as a full-room sing-a-long at an intimate live show. String Machine just plain have it. They just possess the nebulous “it” factor that separates the good, or the great-on-paper, from the preternaturally spectacular.

Stream Death of the Neon below and hear for yourself:

Death of the Neon is available on Bandcamp and streaming services this Friday 8/2.

Eli Enis | @eli_enis

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