Year of the Dog EP

Written by: LL on 20/02/2019 14:32:43

The St. Petersburg, Florida three-piece Polyenso continue to evolve their experimental indie rock/pop/jazz sound on their new EP from January, "Year of the Dog". It has been three years since their last full-length "Pure In The Plastic" came out - an album that has only grown further on me since I reviewed it then. Thus it was with great anticipation that I suddenly noticed that new singles had begun dropping in the Autumn of 2018, although so far 2019 only brings us an EP-release of four songs. The trio have talked about possibly releasing a more organic-leaning album as well as a more electronic and aggressive one, making it three releases in total this year if those plans come to fruition.

"Year of the Dog", then, is a more mixed record that continues their characteristic style from "Pure In The Plastic". Interestingly, the EP comes with instrumental versions of each song as well and those are great for exploring the trio’s subtle mixes of sounds. Yet, they don’t have quite unique impacts to make next to the finalized versions that benefit from lead singer Brennan Taulbee’s characteristic soft singing. 2018 was the year of the dog in the Chinese zodiac, and the four songs of this EP revolve around a certain sense of anxiety or uneasiness that came out of last year in different ways. Each song pulls musically in a different direction making this a very fulfilling listen despite the short length.

First off, “Neon Mirror” makes a mark with its anxious piano melodies while the lyrics describe our modern struggling with the neon mirror, referencing all the screens we surround ourselves with. As Taulbee sings “I could leave it all for peace and quiet” with a sigh and several harmonies backing him, I literally get chills down my spine. Musically, it has a gorgeous build-up of lush electronic layers underneath the fluttering, sharp main riff. These gather and make for an especially impactful instrumental outro to the song that only extends its haunting nature and makes it linger in my mind even after I’ve heard the other songs. The funky “Bastard”, then, presents more of a rallying theme as Taulbee asserts himself against all bastards of the world, probably in particular in reference to the political climate in the USA of late. The strong chorus declaration of “All is not lost and / Art is not lost / You could never change us, bastard” with its firm phrasing right on the beat especially makes an impact here. It works really well with the strong presence of trumpets and busy percussion elements that all seem to support the feeling of a battle-cry.

The two remaining songs both have a very heavy electronic sound, but especially the ironically named “Happy” is just intoxicating as its all-encompassing synths kick in for the chorus simultaneously with the recurring line of “I’m not happy / But you are”. It’s wobbling end beats could have easily been extended but are cut off rather suddenly which seems a bit of shame to me. It is however soon forgotten as it immediately moves into the riffs of “I Go You Go” which is a song that presents a slowly moving and melancholic yet also warm soundscape. It pulls us in with the downwards sliding piano figures and infectious vocal melodies that wind and overlap. Even as Polyenso’s sound is generally lush and pleasant, this song provides a more comforting presence after the conflict-filled lyrics of the preceding songs and a nice, slowly fading vibe to close the EP.

When I first began listening to “Year of the Dog”, I was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t a full-length record of songs. After getting into it, though, I have to say that this is a very effective way of releasing strong songs that easily make a short release into an entirely fulfilling listen. Each song here has a strong presence and memorable soundscape, even as they tie into sounds that have been reworked from the “Pure in the Plastic” sessions. I would have been happier if “Happy” had been extended to provide an instrumental impact like that of “Neon Mirror”, but apart from that nitpicking, “Year of the Dog” is a solid EP. Certainly, it is a great soundtrack for the slow coming of spring and milder weather, and yet another welcome occasion to tell music fans of any kind to check this band out already.

Download: Neon Mirror, Happy, I Go You Go
For The Fans Of: Radiohead, Copeland, HVRVRD, OWEL
Listen: facebook.com/Polyenso

Release date 18.01.2019
Other People Records

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