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Kelley Polar - Love Songs of the Hanging Gardens

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Artist: Kelley Polar

Album: Love Songs of the Hanging Gardens

Label: Environ

Review date: Dec. 11, 2005

If you’ve been reading notices on Kelley Polar’s debut album Love Songs of the Hanging Gardens, you will have read a lot about the man’s bio: Born in Croatia; child prodigy on the violin; eventual expulsion from Juillard; strings-for-hire for NY neu-disco duo Metro Area; brother of Kevin Blechdom. Having released three 12”’s on the Environ label where Polar’s productions moved in the same circles as host outfit Metro Area, Love Songs of the Hanging Gardens is Polar’s home-listening pop record. Advance notice also has this disc pegged as one of the year’s best.

The jury is still out on that one: on the first few listens, I was holding out for the extended tease and foreplay of Polar’s club tracks like “Hammer/Anvil.” Polar gestures at those structures a few times within this record, particularly on “The Rooms in My House Have Many Parties,” but here his brio faces off against the pop song. It’s a curious envisioning of pop, though. Polar’s wafer-thin voice takes a while to click. It’s a wispy thing, and at first its feyness rubs the wrong way, but the further into the record you go, the more sense it makes; for the emotional impact of Polar’s songs often evokes the exhaustion of the failing or muddled relationship, where you’re reduced to barely breathing through whispering lips.

Morgan Geist of Metro Area co-produced the record and you can hear his exacting hand throughout: this may be one of the more beautiful records you’ll listen to this year. But Love Songs of the Hanging Gardens is also oddly cold. It's not clinical or emotionally distant; rather, the production gives the songs the sheen of newly rendered stainless steel. They sound like the strange humming of an astral difference engine, all the better to evoke the more lunar elements of the album, where tracks like “My Beauty in the Moon,” “Black Hole” and “Cosmological Constancy” all motion toward the ultimate escape route from the emotional resignation that’s at the core of the album: Out into the beyond.

By Jon Dale

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