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Los Angeles pop duo Polaris Rose set the world alight earlier in the year with the exciting “Ocean Songs” EP. “Telescopes”, the duo’s long-awaited full length effort, finally arrives after the advance single ‘Perfect View’. The album picks up where “Ocean Songs” left off, while keeping its established elements in place. “Telescopes” further refines the fragile beach pop/rock sound they did so well on the earlier EP, but is less overly rock-oriented and more breezy in comparison to its very promising direct predecessor.

‘Perfect View’, the heart-stopping lead single for the record, like most of the songs on the album, puts a greater emphasis on stirring vocal harmonies than the dueting of the earlier EP. Even though the record itself is less hook-oriented there’s a great presence of guitar melodies and acrobatics. The melody in ‘Radio XYZ’ is one of the best the duo has written to date. Notable is that Madelynn’s bass guitar has lost in prominence in favor of a more breezy sound that focuses on guitar melodies, and Peter Anthony’s vocals. Likewise, Elyse’s vocal presence, at least in terms of sheer volume, seems to be dialed down. Thankfully her full bass guitar tone remains intact. ‘Cityscapes’ is custodian to an electrifying (and unexpected) set of guitar solos that wouldn’t feel out of place on a full-blown rock record. As light and breezy as “Telescopes” tends to get it never falls into the kind of vapidity of mainstream popular music, neither sounds it as manufactured.

As was the case with the earlier release of the duo it’s hard not to get swept away in visions of sunshine, beaches and the laidback lifestyle where California is sometimes associated with. Polaris Rose exudes its home region without specifically emphasizing it in its music. It wouldn’t take a stretch of the imagination to eventually hear the band integrate ska elements at one point or the other. A recurring topic in the band’s music is its love for oceans, and coastlines. The lyrics, the scourge of popular music at large, deal with the expected subjects of love, emotions, the carefreeness of youth, and infatuation but avoid the syrupy saccharinity one would usually associate with the pop genre. In a lot of ways Polaris Rose use simple melodies in the way Coldplay did on its early records. Simplicity is, above all else, Polaris Rose most identifiable strength. Even though “Telescopes” has more electronic enhancements catchy pop/rock songs are still what the band is all about. The light electronics are purely cosmetic, and supportive.

The harmonies, and vocal lines have grown in leaps and bounds, even if they come at the expense of Elyse’s presence. It would be interesting to hear Polaris Rose with Elyse in the lead vocal slot, or to just have a few more songs where her vocal presence is more of the focal point. ‘Kiss Me, Icarus’ and ‘A Diamond In the Sunset’ do just that, and the results are expectedly wonderful. While the band is squarely on the lighter end of the pop/rock spectrum “Telescopes” doesn’t have a ballad (or even a power ballad) to speak of, although several songs have sections that would quality under those criterions. In comparison to its immediate predecessor the only track that remotely breaks from tradition is ‘Set Me On Fire’ which opens with a trudging, almost Black Sabbath-like main riff and melody. Sprinkled through out the record are the type of guitar melodies that can be heard on any of the latter-day Red Hot Chili Peppers albums. The majority of the record however breathes the Californian spirit from its every pore.

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“Telescopes” is lighter in its writing, and the tempo remains in a steady midpace. The alternative rock influence that was present on “Ocean Songs” has been excised for an altogether lighter guitar-oriented pop variant that is equally as powerful. None of the songs are built around specific hooks, but each has a recognizable chorus or melody. Each of the songs usually contain one or two breaks that either emphasize the song’s melody or its chorus. Avoiding the usual saccharinity and vapidness of mainstream popular music Polaris Rose is the perfect piece of music to kick off your weekend. To give the album the required push two singles were released with ‘Perfect View’ and ‘Cityscapes’, for both cuts music videos were produced/shot. In all “Telescopes” combines the breeziness of pop with the crunch of a California rock band, the fact that it is just slightly more alternative (or sub-pop, if you will) makes it all the more appealing.

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Polaris Rose is a relatively young pop/rock duo from Los Angeles.  Emerging from the local indie scene, there’s definite appeal for mainstream stardom. The band plays an alternative rock tinged pop variant, redolent of Colby Caillat’s beach-pop, The Cardigans and more typical American bands in the genre, such as Jack Johnson.  “OceanSongs” is the latest EP of the duo, and the first I ever heard of them. It forms an ideal introduction to an upcoming force in mainstream pop/rock that is just a tad different than most. It’s light, breezy and instantly recognizable on a number of levels. It is also familiar and different enough to warrant a closer inspection.

‘Goddess’ was chosen as the lead single of the EP, and for good reason. The melody is catchy, the atmosphere light and breezy with lyrics equating the object of one’s affections with divine iconography. The lyrics are not the average trite pop drivel, and are actually surprisingly articulate in describing emotions, and situations in a recognizable fashion without ever becoming saccharine or syrupy. One of the greatest ills of mainstream pop music is, thankfully, avoided by building each song around a central melody instead of a hook. Not that hooks are a bad practice, but in mainstream pop music they usually serve no purpose other than to get artificial investment from the listener, even if the song has nothing (musically or lyrically) to invest in. Not so with Polaris Rose who take simplicity to heart on all aspects that matter.

The duo’s most fragile (and less typically rock-based) songs are its strongest, although it is always great to hear musicians reinstating the rock format in popular mainstream music. The songs aren’t overly poppy (or hook-based for matter) in themselves, and there’s an improvised slant to at least some of them, especially in regards to the use of percussion. All songs are electrifying in their honesty, and although the EP is short and breezy it is the ideal introduction to a full length of similar songs. I have no idea how this stacks up compared to the earlier “The Moon & Its Secrets” that the band released earlier, but its great to see young bands not afraid to merge crunchy alternative rock guitars with soaring poppy vocals and loungy musical backdrops that are both relaxing and exhilarating at the same time. Even the light electronics are done tastefully, the crispy production, which capitalizes heavy on the duo’s harmonies, helps sell the EP.

The sound is light and breezy, and much of the songs emotional resonance comes from the simple, straightforward format in which they are written. This is complemented by the lyrics, which deal with the usual subjects of love, relationships and infatuation. The dual vocals and harmonies of Peter Anthony Ewen (who doubles as guitarist) and Madelynn Elyse (who also provides bass guitar) work wonderfully within the context of the songs. One of the more interesting facts about Polaris Rose is that the band seemingly is able to work two pop niches at once. The light, breezy, feel-good pop (that somehow doesn’t turn bubbly in the process) of Colbie Caillat, Michelle Branch (especially her first album “The Spirit Room”) and the likes, and the more rock oriented lounge pop of The Cardigans, Swan Lee or Hooverphonic. Both subgenres aim for the same thing, but together as one it is a formula that is generally not as easy to pull off successfully as one would expect.

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The lack of excess is another great forte of “OceanSongs”, and the duo that wrote it. Each song is compact, succinct and delivers just what it promises. Anthony nor Elyse are excessive in their vocals, this is especially a plus for Elyse as mainstream pop usually forces females into bizarre vocal exercises that usually only serve to annoy the listener. There’s none of that here, and that’s another important aspect in how this EP is just slightly different from what you would usually expect in this particular strand of pop. I’d be hardpressed to call any of this original, or even innovative - but that doesn’t change the fact that this L.A. duo is onto something wth “OceanSongs”. It’s been a while since there was a band that combined alternative rock crunchiness with the breeziness of mainstream vocal pop. Polaris Rose does just that, and while they sound typically American (to a European like me, at least) in the sense that it isn’t hard to image beaches, sunsets and the likes when listening to a piece of music like this.