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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.



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.


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.