In 2002, I came across Northstar’s debut release Is This Thing Loaded? and for the first time in a long time, a fine band had crept up on me. That album was incredibly unrefined yet the core behind it was something distinctive. It is not often that I am pleasantly surprised by something unexpected. With the release of Pollyanna, Northstar aren’t an unexpected element to me anymore; no, they already did that and this time around I was prepared for what they had produced. Even with expectations high, they truly delivered on this one.
Right from the opening of this album, the overall musical veneer had definitely matured and developed from their previous release. Everything just has a decisive, cleaner sound to it. The studio production on Pollyanna is miles ahead of Is This Thing Loaded? and it really guides the overall sound quality.
The album also stood out for me in that many of the earlier tracks on the album are slower paced and then right when you are just about to grow weary, the latter half of the album picks things up and the end is jammed down your throat. Most albums are the opposite and become increasingly arduous and tiring towards the end. I enjoy the approach Northstar took on Pollyanna. It’s rare and it works.
The musicianship on Pollyanna has also developed. Aside from the album having a greater studio sound quality, the instrumentation is played out very pleasingly. The drumming of Gabe Renfroe fits in much better on this album and at times really stands out. The band also manages to tiptoe in some piano parts on the album which adds to the overall character.
Where Pollyanna really shines is in the lyrical department. Nick Torres has quietly become a favorite lyricist of mine. His lyrics take you into his dark, ominous world where the mood is often very bleak. He pens lines of text that are extremely clever while remaining concise in understanding; the lyrics range from drug use and emptiness, to loneliness and depression. Not your everyday watered down lyrics here; you have nothing but depth and meaning. These distinctive lyrics are displayed in the track, “The Pornographers Daughter;” “And I’ll be holding my breath with the best intentions / Cause this is not for me, your perfume struggles perfectly / It wraps around and screams at me… / My hero tastes like plastic, he’s elastic and now he’s dead.” The track that stands out the most on the album is an acoustic song in the middle of the album, “Two Zero Zero,” displaying some intricate guitar work and more shrewd lyrics. “And all I heard were sighs from that shotgun / That she hides so well under that dress / My my what an awful mess… / Does that dress fit alright? / I wanna know why it falls off and on / Are you okay baby? / Hopefully Mississippi will lynch you like did me…”
Two full listens to this album, and I was fully hooked. I just can’t get enough of the lyrics and Torres’ vocals. His vocals are incredibly distinctive and at times brilliantly pull the songs ahead even though it sounds like they are slowly coming together. So while I wasn’t surprised, they lived up to my expectations and exceeded them.
(Triple Crown Records)