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String Machine's Sonic World Expands on Turn Off Anything On Again

String Machine’s music feels like a world of its own. Comprised of seven friends, the Pittsburgh collective’s homegrown tunes are equally intimate and larger than life, possessing the performance energy of upbeat folk while staying true to its indie rock roots. Last year’s Hallelujah Hell Yeah was a remarkable breakthrough for the band, a third record full of genuine joyous spirit, even when retelling anxieties, and epic moments of rocking throughout.

With only one night’s notice, the band surprise-released a new EP, Turn Off Anything On Again, on November 10. Though each pulling from different elements of the band’s sound and pushing their preexisting limits, the three tracks presented on the EP feel like a perfect companion piece to String Machine’s most exciting chapter yet.

Photo by David McCandless

When the alluring, synthy intro of “Misfire” opens the EP, it’s clear the band has already evolved over the past eighteen months since Hallelujah rather than exactly replicating its magic. The rusticity of the band’s writing haven for these tracks, Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest, can be felt throughout the track once member Laurel Wain’s classic-sounding, twangy vocals kick off. The band’s attention to detail has always been prevalent, but on a song like “Misfire,” it surely shines through as every brief instrumental appearance behind Wein’s vocals adds a patch of warmth, depth, and further homespun to the finished sonic quilt. Within just over a minute, the track seamlessly shifts into high gear with a rousing horn solo—perhaps the most invigorating section of the short and sweet EP.

The second track “Out Loud” takes String Machine’s signature folk-rock adjacent sound and strips it back to nearly bare bones. It’s the furthest the band has leaned into a laidback alt-country mode, with just an added electronic touch. Main vocalist David Beck returns to the forefront while the subtle harmonies from the rest of the collective and string elements create an overall entrancing atmosphere to the track. With buzzing electronics fading in and out at the end of each song on the EP, the feeling of running to a small-town convenience store in the middle of the night is evoked. Maybe it’s my city-living heart talking, but these transitions feel almost cinematic.

The EP’s closer, “I See You The Same,” describes that burning feeling of noticing someone’s changed, but trying to swallow the truth of it and accepting it with anger. “Every feeling brought in starts out as a stray / That you’ve gotta calm down and domesticate,” sings Beck on the EP’s still complex yet most melodic chorus. The angst in Beck’s pen is felt all over the track, sounding most closely to some of the standouts on Hallelujah Hell Yeah but with hard-hitting drums that eventually just CRASH in the bridge when the fuse finally goes off.

In a buzzing Northeastern indie rock scene, String Machine plays by their own rules to stand out—there’s never a sound too grand or a feeling too narrow to perfectly capture. Turn Off Anything On Again is a sonically diverse set of songs that each uniquely forecast on the way the band will bring the sounds of Hallelujah Hell Yeah into their next full-length release.


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