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Album Review

The High Water Marks have polished away the raw, guitar-driven gutsiness that characterized their first album, but even if they've cut back on the bombast there's plenty of squeaky-clean power pop goodness to be had on Polar. The production has a distinctly blended feel, fuzzy and somewhat muffled, with Hilarie Sidney and Per Ole Bratset's buzzy overdubbed vocals often slipping behind a candy-floss tangle of bright guitar riffs and keyboards. It results in a more polished album; Polar doesn't feel as scribbly and off the cuff as Songs About the Ocean did, and for the most part it works to the High Water Marks' benefit. Sidney and Bratset have come up with yet another album's worth of sweet, soaring pop tunes that in many ways (all of them good) reflect Sidney's tenure as drummer for the Apples in Stereo. It also bears mentioning that Sidney and Bratset have a wonderful vocal dynamic, and it's a real pleasure to listen to their voices dip and swerve around one another, especially on "Polar" and "Song for Emigrants." Unfortunately, the album falls prey to some pacing issues, making Polar a less than stellar sophomore effort. The album's title track skips out of the gate with the optimism and joy that made Songs About the Ocean sing, but starts to drag a bit once it slips past four minutes. This problem does not go away. Tracks that begin with a promising spark tend to drift into a pleasant, drowse-inducing haze; "Simple," for example, opens up with a refreshing loungey vibe, but falls flat by the time the track reaches the two-minute mark. And this might have something to do with the production. The High Water Marks have gained some polish on Polar, but they've traded it in for the spark that made their first release really shine.

Top Albums and Songs by The High Water Marks

Polar, The High Water Marks
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