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Los Angeles, California indie pop duo Polaris Rose has been steadily making a name for itself both locally and abroad. “Ocean Blue, Velvet Skies” is the band’s latest and sees Maddelynn Elise and Peter Anthony Ewen enhancing their breezy, lighthearted pop/rock with ambient electronics and swanky lounge elements. The album continues the duo’s ocean-centric musings on love, life, and the carelessness of youth. To our continuing bepuzzlement Polaris Rose hasn’t attracted the attention any music label yet despite the obvious marketability of their breezy, beach-flavored rocking indie pop. That notwithstanding “Ocean Blue, Velvet Skies” is a logical and cohesive continuation of “Telescopes” and “OceanSongs”.

Continuing their penchant for writing sweet little pop/rock songs with instantly memorable hooks the vocal harmonies on “Ocean Blue, Velvet Skies” are more engaging and engrossing than on any prior record. The recognizable playful melodies sound instantly familiar and there’s a greater prominence for Peter’s guitar soloing. On the whole “Ocean Blue, Velvet Skies” sounds breezier, more upbeat and surprisingly more rock-oriented than any of the duo’s prior recordings. The inclusion of lounge enhancements and light electronics are both expected and welcomed as they greatly add to the sunny, carefree demeanour that is the bread and butter of the duo’s music. “Ocean Blue, Velvet Skies” is breezier and poppier than any of the duo’s prior recordings, but Polaris Rose always remains an indie pop/rock band at heart. This new record is poppier but never forsakes its roots.

While the vocal interplay between Maddie and Peter has always been one of their greatest strenghts on “Ocean Blue, Velvet Skies” the duo has outdone itself in that aspect. ‘That Lonely Road’ and ‘Astro Boy’ are custodian to some of the album’s best vocal harmonies and Maddie’s vocals are stronger and more emotive than before. The diminished presence of Peter, purely supportive in these tracks, allow Maddie to showcase her range as a singer. Alternatively, ‘The Great Western Highway’ - one of the band’s signature fragile little ballads, replete with an acoustic guitar - is Peter’s moment in the spotlight. Obvious both Peter and Maddie each have a voice worthy of its own project, but combined they are used to far greater effect. ‘TigerBait’ and ‘Soda Jerk’ are the poppiest of the bunch, with the former functioning as the album’s lead single and the latter being more of a stylistic companion piece. ‘Tell Me All Your Secrets’ is vintage Polaris Rose through and through. It is the prequisite rock number in vein of ‘Perfect View’, ‘Cityscapes’ or ‘Hurricanes’. In other words “Ocean Blue, Velvet Skies” has something for everyone.

For “Ocean Blue, Velvet Skies” Peter and Maddie recorded at Vibrant Productions in California. As with past records the studio drums were handled by Kiel Feher, with Carlos Beltran stepping in for live performances. In comparison to prior records there’s a considerably greater bass presence on “Ocean Blue, Velvet Skies” as well as a more defined, crispier guitar tone. Polaris Rose always understood the importance of warm-sounding production values even though “Ocean Blue, Velvet Skies” doesn’t differ too much from prior excursions in that respect. The album was mixed at Vox Recording Studio in Los Angeles by John Spiker and mastered by Eric Boulanger at The Bakery in Culver City, Los Angeles. The artwork and layout are in Polaris Rose' signature collage style and instantly recognizable as such. It truly is wonderful to have a band, pop or otherwise, remain this consistent for so long.

As Los Angeles, California’s most promising indie pop duo Polaris Rose has consistently proven to be worthy of all accolades bestowed on them. It’s nothing short of puzzling that the duo hasn’t yet been courted by any of the major labels. “Ocean Blue, Velvet Skies” continues the growth of the duo and proves that the best music is to be found in the independent circuit. Polaris Rose is the perfect fusion of Colbie Caillat beach pop and American FM rock. If there was any justice in the world Polaris Rose would be travelling the biggest stages of the world with their music. Alas that is not the case and Polaris Rose continue to be an undiscovered gem stuck in their regional scene. Perhaps for the best, as an undiluted Polaris Rose is far better than anything on the radio today.

cover-kellybarber

Kelly Lynn Barber is an up-and-coming singer-songwriter from Bridgewater, New Jersey. “Breaking Barriers” is the follow-up to Barber’s 2014 debut EP “Cold Reality”, that was custodian to the internet hit single ‘My Own Contradiction’. “Breaking Barriers” is a loosely conceptual release about overcoming adversity, personal limitations and - problems by finding strength in one’s own self. Even if the music is somewhat indistinct it are Kelly’s vocals and lyrics that form the main attraction.

Barber plays a brand of alternative pop, a convergence of alternative rock with elements of indie rock and pop punk. “Breaking Barriers” is indebted equally to artists as Michelle Branch, Kelly Clarkson but also early Coldplay and in lesser degree Seattle grunge. Kelly Lynn leans more towards a readily pop oriented direction in comparison to fellow New Jersey indie singer Karousel. Overall Barber’s music is closer to Branch’s independent debut “Broken Bracelet” than any of her later more poppier material. As a general rule Barber is at her best at her most straight up rocking. Towards the end of the EP Kelly Lynn allows her soul to truly shine through in the final song.

“Breaking Barriers” offers up a good cross-section of Barber’s various influences while retaining its pop polish. The EP opens with ‘Done with You’, the lead single about liberating oneself from toxic social elements, where Barber combines the lush production work of “Brand New Eyes” Paramore with Michelle Branch song craft. 'Eventually’ is the catchiest and most immediately accessible of the bunch. ‘Tearing Me Apart’ opens with a Nirvana-like riff. ‘What I Had Planned’ sounds like an early Coldplay song. The more rockier numbers tend to have a light grunge undercurrent. The songwriting on “Breaking Barriers” is rather subdued for the most part, and sidesteps big choruses and earworm hooks when it can. The concluding ballad even pulls slightly in a Lene Marlin direction, which is a direction that begs further exploring.

Kelly Lynn has an incredibly fragile, breakable voice that makes her life-affirming, self-empowering lyrics all the more resonating. Barber shortsells herself somewhat by remaining within a mid-to-low register for the entirety of the EP. Her delivery is one of her strongest suits, as it is both honest and emotive. It probably wouldn’t hurt if she’d put some power behind her vocals. Kelly Lynn is at her best vocally towards the end of ‘Eventually’ and during ‘Discord’. The quieter songs, notably tracks as ‘The Last Time’ and ‘Discord’, help sell Kelly Lynn’s vocal abilities. ‘Discord’ is the requisite ballad, and its minimalist composition allows Barber to show what she’s truly capable of. For this reason alone ‘Discord’ is a definite highlight of “Breaking Barriers”.

“Breaking Barriers” was recorded at Fresh Produce Studios with Jake Detwiler producing. As is the expected norm in pop the production is airy, bass-heavy and incredibly smooth. Rather strangely it puts more emphasis on the instrumentation than on Barber’s vocals, the very thing that is supposed to sell the record. Despite the odd choice in production, Kelly Lynn is able to hold her own. In February 2015 Kelly Lynn Barber announced that she was changing her artist name to reflect a change in musical direction. She reintroduced herself as Kelly Sirko, adopting her mother’s maiden name.