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New recordings: Sheer Mag, Halsey, Broken Social Scene [The Philadelphia Inquirer :: BC-MUS-ALBUMS:PH]

Sheer Mag

"Need to Feel Your Love"

(Wilsuns (ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)1/2)

Sheer Mag are really, really good at making rip-it-up '70s guitar jams in tightly coiled songs that deliver choice pop hooks and turn-it-up-to-11 six string riffage. But along with Tina Halladay's powerhouse vocals and Kyle Seely's guitar heroics, the Philadelphia rock and roll band have other significant attributes that make themselves apparent on their first full length album (after three buzz-building EPs.)

Yes, "Need to Feel Your Love" has more than its fair share of hard driving songs of love and longing - see the title cut, the almost funky "Pure Desire," and "Can't Play It Cool." But the fivesome also mix it up musically with confidence, from the country-folk of "Until You Find the One" to "Suffer Me," which is seasoned with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Southern rock flavor. And Sheer Mag also unequivocally stake their claim as a resistance rock band. The 12-song set opens with "Meet Me in the Street," a call to arms that begins: "Smoke hangs in the air to the east of the river / And the truncheons are primed and keen to deliver."

"Expect The Bayonet" issues a promise to resist by any means necessary; "Suffer Me" evokes the Stonewall gay rights riot of 1969; and the terrific closing power pop salvo "(Say Goodbye To) Sophie Scholl," nominates the German, anti-Nazi activist executed during World War II as a hero for our time.

_ Dan DeLuca

Halsey

"hopeless fountain kingdom"

(Astralwerks (ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)(ASTERISK))

How the darkly intrepid electronic music chanteuse Ashley Nicolette Frangipane - the tangy toast of Washington, N.J. - got to be the nu-synth-soul diva Halsey is matter of patience on her part, and the broadening of expectations from her longtime fan base and radio programmers. Like her brooding New Zealand counterpart Lorde (who also recently released a new, second album, Melodrama), Halsey's sophomore effort lightens in sound, tone, and lyrical intent without allowing too much sunshine into her erstwhile ethos. In other words, if you liked her catty baritone on EDM superstars the Chainsmokers' smash hit "Closer," you'll freak for fountain.

Yes, there's more glistening R&B-hop than on her Badlands debut of 2015 - the luxurious "Alone" or the raggedy "Lie," featuring Quavo of Migos - and a nod to softly strung, overly sensitive singer-songwriter stuff ("Sorry"). What catches you, though, is how Halsey plays cat-toy games with the listener, as well as with the protagonist/antagonists of her story-songs. While "Good Mourning" could be the best glad-to-be-unhappy song Depeche Mode never did, the grand "Bad at Love" and the sex partner-lament "Strangers," (complete with a lover who "doesn't kiss me on the mouth anymore") bat at you playfully and flirtatiously like a feline paw.

_ A.D. Amorosi

Broken Social Scene

"Hug Of Thunder"

(Arts & Crafts, (ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)1/2)

"Things are gonna get better. Can't get worse," sings Ariel Engle, one of the many vocalists on "Hug of Thunder," the fifth Broken Social Scene album, and the first in seven years for the Toronto collective. That dichotomy is central to Broken Social Scene, whose celebratory anthems find hope amid tension and doubt. The band, a cadre of 17 helmed by Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning and including Leslie Feist and members of Metric and Stars, harnesses the power of a large number of players to create deeply textured songs that range from widescreen and forceful to subtle and intimate.

"Hug of Thunder" is their best since their 2002 classic "You Forgot It in People." It balances calm, meditative passages with triumphant, soaring hooks, sometimes in successive songs ("Sol Luna" and "Halfway Home"), sometimes within one ("Mouth Guards of the Apocalypse"). It's rich with voices, with layer upon layer of guitars, and with joy in the power and spirit of loud, rapturous choruses.

_ Steve Klinge

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