Philadelphia’s indie scene has been bubbling for a while now. Though aside from Bleeding Rainbow’s bigger moments, this Philly trio feels apart from it. Amanda X seem to have ignored most mandatory modern rock accoutrements, sounding fresh and forward for it, though obviously their sound is grounded in the Clinton era. It’s almost jarring to hear something so uncluttered, no extra GarageBand-aided over-fuzzing, no real or imagined “accidental” ambient noise, no ubiquitous synthesizer dropping in to appease some notion of zeitgeist obligation. No, just three women getting together to pound out good songs.
This debut comes out of the sure hands of Philly-based Siltbreeze Records, a label that got its start making the world a weirder place by offering the most bent angles on the indie rock of that alt-era. They slunk back under the dust somewhere for a bit, but have jumped back into the action in the last few years and have found another diamond in the rough back lots of the City of Brotherly Love.
Admittedly the easy, and quite correct, Sleater-Kinney comparison comes up from the first few seconds of Amnesia‘s opener, Guatemala, which doesn’t make it any less drowsily droll as a perfect run-up for what’s to come. Like the way Dream House walks out the front door from that wake-up tune, as the chorus bellows out like your eyes getting used to the sun: “My heart will break-a-a-ak!” And that demi-grunge swell-and-release pattern continues on in a steady and impressively constructed way.
But it’s not all a 1996 house show party rethrown. Songs like Low And Mean and Parsnip summer tumble like La Luz and others of that Hardly Art-core clique. And the impeded tempos, humbly yearning vocals, and distorted strumming mostly recall the 1980s/90s Columbus, Ohio trio, Scrawl. And if you don’t recall Scrawl, Amanda X just might, as their label heads were certainly cognizant of the fractured folk-fuzz that has intermittently rolled out of the Ohio Valley and made its way around the rust belt since the ’80s. Scrawl is one of the great unhearaled “all girl bands,” one of those alt-rock era acts that forced us to quit using the term “all-girl band.”
Sometimes the not exactly hitting the note thing shifts Amanda X’s songs off their axis (Tunnels). And like the uncluttered sounds, the lyrics too don’t mess around, with straight-forward sentiments of messy relationships that either hit home with their humility, or fall flat from lethargy.The record’s apex, Paranoia is the surest mesh of their moves, the loud/quiet shifts, swelling chorus and dour predictions. “This house is rotting from the inside out.” Odd, since this sounds like the start of something building.