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.