There is no better feeling than when being yourself pays off. Polyenso prove that writing what feels right and not compromising yourself can yield utterly amazing results.
Polyenso is a band that I never wanted to like. Evolving from the post-hardcore band Oceana (who released one of my top twenty albums Birth.Eater), it was a stark contrast in sound to what they were before. I heard Clean Head (also released unto the Oceana moniker) and was honestly taken aback by the dramatic change. I found myself really disliking what they had become, as I had such love for what they were before.
When they released their debut under the Polyenso name, One Big Particular Loop, I began to understand what had happened to my beloved Oceana: they grew up. Through all of the emotional turmoil put into Birth.Eater, what came after it was a sense of purpose and clarity. I heard “Falling in Rain” and was stunned by the musical layers and new sounds that the old band could never have implemented. It was in Polyenso that they found the music they were meant to create, and they did it damn well.
I think the thing I appreciate the most from this release is it’s fullness. I know that might sound a little vague, but hear (or, read) me out. Starting with the introductory track “Neon Mirrors”, even though it is a much softer track compared to the few that follow it, it sounds complete. There doesn’t feel like anything else needs or should be added to it. As it is the longest song on the record at six minutes, there was time to get completely lost in the layers of music. The gentle, repetitive guitar notes carry over a driving background that keep the song moving without going too fast. The piano accents create a dramatic feeling during the choruses, only overshadowed by frontman Brennan Taulbee’s vocals. This all helps show the amount of maturity and fine-tuning they have been moving towards over these past few years, and it shows so well.
As seen in their previous works, Polyenso are quite keen on what I believe can be called ‘limited experimentation’. They like to work with different tones and styles, while not straying too far from what they feel is right for themselves. While it showed much more in their first release, they found a very nice middle ground on their sophomore release, Pure in the Plastic. Utilization of background tracking that wasn’t always a musical tone became a staple in many of their songs, which helped create a fuller sound with much more going on in it. ‘Happily’ enough, “Happy” continues this trend and doesn’t short itself on the quality. The sound of children laughing and playing in the background gives a chilling juxtaposition to the actual message of the track. Regardless of the meaning, the chorus is the shining star of this song. Robust and rich, only the first chorus is live and full of spirit. The second chorus, while remaining meaningful, drops the edge, furthering the theme of the lyrics of being tired and not able to keep up with the same facade over and over. It helps showcase the absolute brilliance that Polyenso have.
The primary fault of this release is that it is very short. Fans have waited nearly three years for new material and, while Year of the Dog is no slump, I know I found a slight disappointment in finding it to only be four songs. However, I do like that they continued the trend of adding the instrumental versions of their songs on their albums, as seen on Pure in the Plastic. What I, and probably most of their fanbase, are hoping for is that this will be similar to their EP 1 release and just be a taste of a fuller album to come, but that remains to be seen. We can dream.
Year of the Dog continues a trend that Polyenso have created for themselves over these past nearly six years. Their ability to pull so many different musical ideas together and construct beautiful, thought-provoking creations puts them on another level of ingenuity. As I said before, I do hope that this is only a teaser of more material to come, but even if this is all we get for now, this is absolutely an album that you cannot and should not go without.