Rooted in punk and DIY ethos but with an unabashed love of all things 70s rock, raunchy metal and pop, Sheer Mag is a band made from a thrilling mix of contradictions. Over a period of three years, they released a string of excellent EPs bursting with brash and, at times, confrontational but undeniably catchy rock that simmered with sneering punk attitude, and split the difference between sociopolitical songs that felt like honest to God manifestos made for the frustrated working class and good old fashioned songs about heartache.

Much like Detroit proto-punk greats the MC5, their spirited music gives you the impression they really believe in the power of rock'n'roll to change the world around them, if not make it better place. Those EPs, lo-fi and sounding like they had been recorded through an old beat up boombox and sporting the kind of artwork that looked crudely homemade, arguably added up to some of the more exciting rock music released in recent times. But it's how effortlessly they fuse different styles and distill them into something that's unique as it is powerful that makes them a hell of a lot of fun and sets them apart more than anything.

With each release you could hear them growing in terms of songwriting and ambition, but never straying far from their DIY roots, and they built their following and reputation largely from the ground up on the backs of those great EPs and relentless rowdy gigs in tiny DIY spaces, mostly avoiding the press and social media, and releasing their music on a small independent label. That their rise was organic as it was at a time when hyper-connectivity is by now the norm frankly makes the idea of a band like Sheer Mag all the more refreshing, and proves that in the digital era, it's still possible for bands to carve a niche for themselves on their own terms.

After last year's Compilation LP that collected their three EPs into a single space, they've finally gotten around to releasing their long-awaited debut. There's no doubt those EPs set and raised the bar, but on Need To Feel Your Love, they pretty much exceed expectations and more than deliver on their promise. One of the most obvious differences lies in the sound itself. Bassist Hart Seely handled the production and the added clarity he brings allows for their impressive musicianship to come bleeding through, from the warm rumble of the rhythm section to the endless arsenal of killer riffs and hooks fired off from the twin guitar attacks. Yet there's still very much a lo-fi feel to the recording and it's to his credit that he achieved the kind of balance most bands making their first record would kill for.

Impressive enough as they are on their own, with Tina Halladay, they are something else altogether. She's a powerhouse singer with a raspy and soulful delivery that makes her a force to be reckoned with, and her vocals especially benefit from the cleaner production. Where on past releases she almost sounded at times as if she were shouting through a shitty PA from a completely different room, here, she's still as fierce as ever, but no longer sounding like she were having to overcompensate and with an even better grasp of her range.

And speaking of range, they make full use of the album format as a means of further expanding on the range that was on display across those three EPs, be it on the Southern-tinged boogie of 'Suffer Me', the funky disco strut of 'Pure Desire', or the ringing melancholy of the country-leaning 'Milk And Honey'. But even as their sound continues to evolve, 'Meet Me In The Street', 'Turn It Up', and 'Can't Play It Cool' all prove that they're still more than capable of turning out the kind of rock music made for the wrong kind of fun.

Sheer Mag are one of those rare bands whose political passion translates into a kind of urgent sincerity. Rather than using their music as a platform to prop up their own agenda, they instead use it as a means of confronting issues of inequality and injustice with the kind of immediacy that lends a voice to those who feel they have none. Which makes the arrival of Need To Feel Your Love feel especially crucial during a time where even the most basic human rights are under attack. It seems appropriate then that they shift their focus slightly to themes of universal love and the importance of compassion and understanding, things that seem in short supply in the face of increasing political discourse.

Boasting lines like "Come on down, get in the mix/ We get our kicks with bottles and bricks/ When we work together it feels all right," 'Meet In The Streets' feels like a revolutionary call to arms, 'Suffer Me' is a deceptively danceable and powerful anthem for LGBT resistance, and '(Say Goodbye) To Sophie Scholl' pays tribute to the German student and anti-Nazi political activist executed by the Nazis in 1943 at age 21, fitting given the current political climate. But nowhere else are they more direct and potent than on 'Expect The Bayonet', a protest set to driving power-pop that Halladay describes as "a warning to those who don’t want all voices to be heard," that also feels like it takes a swipe at the gerrymandering issues that are currently undermining what little there is of U.S. democracy.

Not only is this one of their best protest songs, it might be hands down of the best songs they've ever written. From the tugging memorable riffs right down to the driving pace, all of their stylistic diversions meet in a single place, balancing catchiness with muscle, attitude and urgency converging in a single space to positively uplifting results. "Before the world’s been reduced to soot/ Solidarity for those underfoot/ I better remind ya or you’ll surely regret/ And if you don’t give us the ballot/ Expect the bayonet," Halladay warns, in one what amounts to one of her best performances on tape, her voice at once a passionate plea and a defiant cry.

Love is nothing new to them, and they've tackled the topic before in songs like 'What You Want', 'Hard Lovin’', and 'Worth The Tears', but none of them had the happiest of endings and they focused more on the heartache and disappointment that comes with love rather than the joy that makes the struggles and sacrifices worth it. Instead, it was approached with a certain amount of guardedness and a cynical attitude. On this album's 'Just Can’t Get Enough', Halladay has changed her tune, lowered her guard, and is revelling in the rush that comes from being completely head over heels for someone. "I wanna run to you, baby/ I don’t wanna take too long/ I get dizzy with you, honey/ ‘Cause you keep me spinnin’ on," she sings over dizzying riffs and a snapping backbeat. There's such a purity to it that it’s genuinely hard not to get completely swept away in the moment. In turn she reveals a tender and vulnerable side on the bittersweet 'Milk And Honey' that only adds another layer of depth to their sound.

Need To Feel Your Love is more than just a terrific debut, it also happens to be of the best damn rock records released this year. What makes it work so well has to do with the sincerity of the band themselves. Far from simple revivalism, Sheer Mag pay tribute to their influences in the best way possible by reworking them into something modern and relevant and distinctly their own. Listen to any given song and you get the sense they find pure joy in simply playing revved up and stripped down rock music and also in seeing where exactly they can take it. That they managed to build a cult following on their own and long before they released a proper album speaks volumes about their appeal and their ability to forge such an intimate and devoted connection with the very audience they came from. In a year where rock music has been passed up by hip hop in terms of popularity and relevance, bands like Sheer Mag remind us that it's still plenty relevant to those in need of a voice or a simple good time.