Monday, November 30, 2009

Polka Dot Dot Dot- Syzygy

I can rave for hours about the Polka Dots. I was at some of their first (U.S.) shows and was swooning as hard then as I am now, almost three years later. I've lived with them, had adventures with them, and know them to be as amazing at being human as they are at being musicians. I'm a little biased, perhaps.
But, if their indie stardom in New Zealand and the standing ovations I see at their shows are any indication, my bias doesn't actually mean much.
Syzygy is their new album. It's the much anticipated follow-up to 2007's Love Letter to New Zealand. It came out a couple weeks ago and, for most of those couple weeks, I have been obsessed. I actually had to wait for my obsession to die down before I could write something because I was a little speechless.
That said, Syzygy is a pretty simple album: sparse arrangements, minimal production, a lot of space. When I first heard it, I was a little disappointed. I wanted them to sound like the superstars they are; I wanted something slick. As the album went on and built up, adding instruments, gaining momentum, I suddenly understood. Bob Schwenkler (Bicycle Records, Dub Narcotic Studios) has a way of making albums that are big and lush, while being understated at the same time. He's the recording engineer behind some of the best Olympia albums (most the Kickball albums, all the Bicycle releases, etc) and he's done such a great job at capturing Polka Dot Dot Dot's magic without making them something they're not. They use acoustic instruments, hand-claps, body percussion, and three-part harmonies to make their sound and that's what this album sounds like.

The Polka Dots are a band without a leader; they're three great songwriters who like to play together. That means that there are so many good songs on this album. There's not a bad one, in fact.
But the epic that is "Fate of the Ardent Small Devices" is probably my favorite. This is the song that really shows how much they've grown since their last album, it's so precise. It may not be the song that pulls first-timers into the Dots majesty, but it's the one that sends chills up my spine.
Polka Dot Dot Dot- Fate Of The Ardent_Small Advices

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