I love to watch bands mature and solidify their unique style so they can stand apart in the very crowded music universe. Polaris Rose has done that with their debut album, Telescopes, following up the 2013 release of their impressive EP, The Moon and Its Secrets. Moon made the rock world notice that a unique new talent was emerging. With Telescopes, Polaris Rose has emerged.
Telescopes establishes the partnership of Peter Anthony and Madelyn Elyse as a breakout indie rock creative force headed for the top. It is a masterwork of sophisticated songwriting, gracefully complex arrangements and stratospheric guitar playing woven seamlessly together with luminous vocals. There is nothing like it.
Peter Anthony’s voice delivers an emotional charge that goes beyond the personal lyrics threaded throughout the album. In “Radio XYZ”, when he sings I’d turn my back and leave you for the California coast/ I’m better off alone, the high, almost disembodied timber of his voice makes the words larger than life – they become about a universal truth. Again, in “Cityscapes” he puts his voice almost outside of the song, like a god talking to us from beyond the universe, to tell us the larger truth that we should live our lives/drinking deeply from a glass of ocean waves. And he does this after seductively tempting us with the siren call of the city’s pleasures – the city calls to me/she is singing out to me with city lights/and she is beautiful. Stunning.
Madelynn Elyse brings a down to earth power to the album, both with her unique, pulsing bass notes and her radient voice that seems to move through other dimensions of time and space in cuts like “Set Me On Fire” and “A Diamond in the Sunset”. She lights up the album’s songs both in solo mode and in unison with Peter. Maddie’s and Peter’s chemistry is so good that it is hard to tell where one stops and the other starts - together they personify the word "awesome".
The album opens with “Perfect View”, a three and half minute adventure from Boston to LA, headlined by Peter’s urgent voice and power guitar riffs and scaffolded by Maddie’s steady bass. The song moves from strong rock guitar and drums to melodious hooks as he sings Play one last show/then off we go/to chase the sun for days. This is the sound of Polaris Rose – solid indie rock woven together with shimmering vocals, unconventional harmonies and earworm hooks that take you through poetically intelligent lyrics.
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They shift to solid rock in “Blue”, which opens with Maddie pushing out a power drive bass line while her voice shape-shifts from pop sensibilities to anthem rock and then back again, all colored with Peter’s pile-driving electric guitar rift.
Even better, “Blue” perfectly positions us for the title track, “Telescopes”, where Peter and Maddie let loose and blow us away with power guitars, power vocals and power lyrics that amour us up for the trip ahead. So I set my sails and battle storm clouds/to catch the waxing moon/and with every\breath I’ll sing that siren song. It is a siren song alright and we are on the ship with them, gladly sailing into the storm with Polaris Rose as our guide star.
“Kiss Me Icarus” and my favorite, “Radio XYZ”, deliver their truths through Peter’s voice and curling, swirling melodies and guitar walls. “Cityscape” starts with an enticing combination of vocals and melodious guitars, relaxing us with the image of the seductive city and hits us with everything Peter and Maddie have – slashing guitars, soaring keyboards, pulsing bass, addictive hooks. This could be a hit single – along with most of the rest of the album.
“Pony Tail” is a fun song of young love written and delivered in the Polaris Rose style. It was good, it was great/started with a kiss and turned to heartache. “Pony Tail” gives us a breather and a smile before Maddie turns the heat way up in “Set Me On Fire”, a steaming tidal wave of music.
“Set Me on Fire” sucks us out to sea with her down and dirty bass line and then roars over us with soaring vocals and guitars before pulling back again with an enigmatic harmony, supported only by the bassline and simple blues-inflected guitar notes. And when the lightening breaks apart the silence/and when it strikes the lightning breaks my heart in two/ooooo, set me on fire.
As you pick yourself up off the floor from “Set Me on Fire”, you are once again carried away by Maddie’s vocals in “A Diamond in the Sunset”. Her pulsing voice is a silver bird, gliding through the colors created by Peter’s jangling electric and then rising up to grab you in the chorus.
The album wraps up with “Oceans Collapse”, classic Polaris Rose – four minutes of radiant riffs, complex arrangements, unique harmonies and standalone melody spinning out a poetic story with a deeper meaning. The perfect ending for a near- perfect album and a great reason to hit “replay”.
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