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Love Songs of the Hanging Gardens

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Album Review

Kelley Polar (last name first, adjective last) and his string "quartet" played a vital role in Metro Area tracks like "The Art of Hot," "Caught Up," and "Miura," lending extra grace to otherwise electronic-based productions that have since inspired several hapless imitators. 2002 through 2004 saw a series of 12" releases from Kelley Polar Quartet, all of which held key trademarks of the Metro Area releases: spiritual allegiance with electronic post-disco of the early '80s, supreme attention to detail, and the novel idea of releasing one spectacular single — as opposed to several middling-to-decent singles — on an annual basis. For his first full-length release, Kelley opts to make a ten-song, 40-minute album that's far more pop-oriented than his prior releases, but you can certainly dance or at least sway to it. As with the singles, the album was produced with Metro Area's Morgan Geist, whose fingerprints are very visible, especially if you're familiar with the track he produced for Erlend Øye's Unrest. In a sense, the album resembles what might've happened if Martin Rushent produced tracks as nuanced and affecting as the ones heard on the Human League's Dare! and handed them over to the Free Design. Then again, the productions — not only the sweet, sensitive, well-developed vocal arrangements — also carry baroque qualities, and the lyrics are either wholly rapturous ("I'll love her 'til she makes me lose my mind") or deeply lovelorn ("I'll keep on waiting 'til you're back here in the dark with me"), so they have a way of evoking a new score to Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 version of Romeo & Juliet. The album is nothing if not exceptionally produced, with discreet sounds and layers (none extraneous, all complementary) popping above and below rhythms and string arrangements that are imaginative without fail. This is synth-phonic space-age boogie pop made possible with high-caliber songwriting, innovative production, and a maverick way of glancing at varied points in the past in order to chart the future.


Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Initially known for providing the strings on tracks by Metro Area ("The Art of Hot," "Caught Up," "Miura") and Metro Area's Morgan Geist ("24K"), Kelley Polar (last name first, adjective last; real name: Mike Kelley, the brother of Blevin Blectum) began releasing a series of 12" singles in 2002. Released on Environ and featuring assistance from label head Geist, 2002's Audition, 2003's Recital, and 2004's Rococo were somewhat similar to Metro Area's singles -- in detail, inspiration, and basic construction...
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Love Songs of the Hanging Gardens, Kelley Polar
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