Sincere Engineer: Cheap Grills [Album Review]

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Sincere Engineer
Cheap Grills
Hopeless Records [2023]

The Fire Note headphone approved

Chicago-based indie punk artist Sincere Engineer started as a solo acoustic punk act, performing at dive bars and open mics. Singer Deanna Belos decided to forgo dental school for a career in punk music, and she has since toured the world with bands like Alkaline Trio, The Menzingers, and Joyce Manor. In 2020, she released Bless My Psyche, Sincere Engineer’s sophomore album and debut on Hopeless Records. Bless My Psyche was a poignant and introspective journey that delved deep into the complexities of mental health, self-discovery, and the ever-shifting landscape of personal relationships. Cheap Grills marks a change in the narrative, with Sincere Engineer taking a step forward with bigger catchy melodies, witty and sharp lyrics, and the sincerity of someone who wants to do the right thing in a world that doesn’t always reward it.

The album opens with the punchy “Anemia,” setting the tone with its catchy hooks and Belos’s signature raspy vocals. Her Karly Hartzman (Wednesday) meets Kim Shattuck (The Muffs) style of singing is infectious, as the song captures the essence of Sincere Engineer’s sound—accessible yet emotionally charged. Belos introduces you to this album with the lines, “I’m a walking open wound / Don’t make any sudden moves / I’m a walking open wound / It’s a pleasure to meet you.” It delivers what you should continue to expect, as Cheap Grills is an album that thrives on the power of contrast. Tracks like “California King” and “Old Coat Pocket” are characterized by their punk-rock vigor, while the lyrics delve into moments of vulnerability and self-examination. Belos’s songwriting is brutally honest, a quality that allows her audience to connect on a deeply personal level.

One of the standout tracks on the album is “Inside My Head,” a poignant exploration of isolation and the longing to push forward in life when you feel like nobody understands. The melancholic melodies, combined with Belos’s evocative lyrics, create a powerful emotional resonance. This track, like much of Cheap Grills, exemplifies Sincere Engineer’s ability to turn personal struggles into relatable anthems. The last track on the album “Blind Robin” is a hauntingly beautiful acoustic ballad that lays bare the complexities of relationships.

Cheap Grills also reveals Belos’s growth as a songwriter and musician. Song after song, her knack for crafting memorable melodies and storytelling shines through. While Cheap Grills may not break the melodic punk rock mold, it stands as a bright shining moment for the genre in 2023, demonstrating that the scene is still thriving with Sincere Engineer at the forefront—a sound that’s easy to appreciate again and again!

“Anemia” / “California King” / “Code Orange”

Wednesday / Jawbreaker / The Muffs

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Thomas Wilde

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