21 May 2008

Band of the Week: Kelley Polar

Band: Kelley Polar
From: Sullivan, New Hampshire
Sound: Body-movin' zero gravity pop filtered through the '80s... the 2080s
Similar Artists: Isolée, Human League, Thomas Dolby, Daft Punk, Junior Boys
Listen Now: "Entropy Reigns (In The Celestial City)" (live on "Fair Game")

Imagine music that delivers on the promise of both '70s krautrock and '80s synth-pop at once while managing to highlight the warmth of the human voice in a manner that's as comforting as it is danceable. Music that feels at home alongside The Human League and New Order that isn't strictly derivative of such New Wave landmarks in a way that a band like Cut Copy is - music that's not blown out Zoo TV-style like Daft Punk but still enlivens in a similar manner - and, frankly, music that delivers a jolt of originality and fresh life into a genre (dance) that's most often about predictability, re-hashed ideas, and conformity. As proven on 2005's Love Songs Of The Hanging Gardens, and again on this year's standout album I Need You To Hold On While The Sky Is Falling, the music of Kelley Polar is an expanding universe unto itself in which one "could spend a thousand years just drifting through the atmosphere." Welcome.

Kelley Polar, née Mike Kelley, first showed interest in music at the age of three playing DJ to his disco-loving older sister (musician Blevin Blectum) on a plastic Fisher-Price turntable. Not long after that he was schooled in piano and violin before moving on to his passion: the viola. Adventures playing the Green Kangaroo of the violin family led to awards, an infamous tenure at Oberlin Conservatory, and eventually Juilliard. It's during this time that Mike Kelley met Morgan Geist, he of Metro Area and Environ Records, and assembled a group of Juilliard players (dubbed the "Kelley Polar Quartet") who would soon be heard on some of Metro Area’s biggest tracks. Kelley's stay at the illustrious NYC School would, however, be cut short: he was expelled from Juilliard for the "riot" during his Master's Recital. Consider this misfortune a stroke of good luck for listeners the world over...

After leaving Juilliard, Mike Kelley retreated from his self-destructive city lifestyle by returning to the countryside of his youth in rural New Hampshire where he began work on the songs that would become his universally adored debut album Love Songs of the Hanging Gardens (the Chicago Reader and Stylus both had the record on their respective "Best of" lists, Pitchfork predictably undervalued and ignored it). Live shows and touring ensued and Polar gradually built a devoted fan base who egerly anticipated his next move. They'd end up waiting three long years for the follow-up record, but would be well-rewarded a mere eighty seconds into the first listen of I Need You To Hold On While The Sky Is Falling when Polar lets the beat DRRROP.

While Kelley's first album was admittedly full of hints about his desire to get away from the planet Earth ("Subtle or not-so-subtle messages...I have a planetary claustrophobia that I would appreciate having addressed."), his second album blasts the listener far beyond the reaches of our atmosphere without as much as a single pause. It's an entire galaxy of disconnected fantasia, one that listeners are likely to either adore or detest in a matter of minutes. Polarizing: equally prog-y, disco-y, electro pop-y, heady, sexy, risky, and unique, I Need You To Hold On While The Sky Is Falling just might be the best album released in 2008 this side of the Kuiper belt. With a robotic whisper and double servings of Faltermeyer in the synthesizers, it's the lush organic strings and lovingly placed human vocals that will keep you grounded as the dark energy of Kelley Polar lifts you up; up out of our solar system, into the Oort cloud, and beyond. For God's sake, strap yourselves down!

Preview snippets of nine songs from I Need You to Hold on While the Sky Is Falling HERE, listen to a live version of one of the album's standout tracks below.

Listen: "Entropy Reigns (In The Celestial City)" (live on "Fair Game")

Watch: music video for "Chrysanthemum" over on EARF

Visit Kelley Polar on MySpace.
--
In the recent past, the following bands have been featured as EAR FARM's Band of the Week:
Plants and Animals
All the Saints
I'm From Barcelona
Bombadil
Tapes 'n Tapes
White Hinterland
Man Man
We Barbarians

See the entire list of bands featured as EAR FARM's Band of the Week HERE.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

this song is awesome!

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