Sister City – Small Talk review

SISTER CITYWith home residing between Philadelphia and Baltimore, Sister City’s third album – released last year – is jam-packed with lyrical genius. Edging more (actually, edging a lot) towards the Brand New side of punk-rock as opposed to the Sex Pistols side, the observational and grounded lyricism mixes with a comfortable and relatable sound to form the perfect punk-rock album for people who are usually content with indie music.

Opening with the title track, this sets the tone for a record that sits as the perfect mix between Brand New’s Deja Entendu album, and The Front Bottom’s Rose EP. Half nonchalant and half passionate with frank and flippant execution, from referring to oneself as a machine to accepting death with a mere shrug, these are the sort of lyrics you want to pull apart and scribble everywhere for their sheer genius. Today Was My Day To Die And You Ruined It  and Horsey! take the opportunity to play around with the vocals as they fade in and out, with a narration style akin to Empire! Empire! I Was A Lonely Estate.

Two and a half minute bursts of sound that serve themselves up more as interludes or mood pieces, such as Every Stone, mix with tracks like penultimate Normal Sized Words, long and driving enough you can you lose yourself in the sound and forget everything else. As a midpoint between these two, Psalm 26 stands out for the intricate adjustments in levels from the opening to the fuzzy and angry vocal-intense close, whilst my personal favourite lies in Kin. The simplistic lul in the album is accompanied by an electronic backing without losing the mood of the previous tracks, with lyrics, “But take the sweat stains on our shirts / As proof at least our bodies work”, retaining the desperate and weak optimism that remains throughout the record.

Room 222 fits into a strange genre; the track could almost be described as pop-punk, if it weren’t for the connotations. Perhaps, “pop-punk-rock without any of the manically happy or upbeat assumptions that come with the phrase”, would suit best. A melody that would fit into a generic Top 40 song a few years back accompanies the prominent but unavoidably down to earth and witty lyricism; “Change is a four letter word / But numbers were never my strong point”.

Gradual rises and falls in passionate frustration and melancholy desperation lead the rest of the record, with the album winding with the most fitting finale with Adam Gives Up The Dream. The song doesn’t build up to much, through the minimalistic guitar and later percussion explosion, and the lyricism remains grounded, with closing line, “anyone who knows me knows I spent the night inside”, proving to be just solemn enough to make the slightly unfinished sound drop off perfectly.

If you made a venn diagram of Brand New, The Front Bottoms, Empire! Empire! I Was A Lonely Estate and Modern Baseball, Sister City would fall smack bang in the middle; intense and wonderful. The album is available as pay-what-you-want below, or on BandCamp.

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