Album Review: Ma Jolie’s Polars

Local punk band Ma Jolie’s new album Polars is a rather peculiar intersection of punk and indie. While the genre of Indie-Punk is by no means a new invention, it’s the manner in which the band intermingles the two genres that makes it unique. On a surface level the album sounds like your traditional scream-infused punk record; emotionally intense, furious, yet rather upbeat. But as you listen to it more and more, it gradually becomes apparent that there are elements of bands like Metric and Brand New beneath. It’s a furious punk album built upon the style of soft spoken new wave, and while the results may be somewhat messy it definitely makes for an interesting and engaging piece of music.

If you’ve been to a Philly punk show in the last few years, you’ve probably encountered Ma Jolie at some point. They’ve become something of a staple of local scene, putting in their time at bars, house shows, and church concerts. And while they’ve always been a consistent and straightforward punk outfit, its only in their most recent album that the band has developed a sound all their own.

The sense of indie mentioned is really in the song structure itself. For a punk band Ma Jolie really makes use of a these key moments of quiet. The seconds before a lyrical explosion or a big guitar riff will have a melodic hush to them. It really emphasizes the sense of melancholy underlying this veneer of fury and exhilaration. It’s almost like taking album by Cold War Kids or Tokyo Police Club and turning the metaphorical dial up to 11.

One of the ways this balance really works is that the album sounds authentically “punk” without ever having to rely on the various tropes and patterns that bands of the genre often fall into. There are no repetitive whoa-ohs, no predictable guitar riffs, or any of the many potential clichés that one could expect. The fact that Ma Jolie borrows elements and influences from alternative rock, indie and other low intensity genres allows the band to really focus on what they do best: screaming at the top of their lungs. The band—not just the lead singer—screams with the bloodcurdling intensity of a wounded bear. It allows them to express the passion commonly associated with punk bands in the most direct, sincere terms possible without the music ever becoming repetitive.

While a more subtle approach to the genre may alienate listeners more accustomed to traditional forms of punk, the Ma Jolie’s unique balance ultimately pays off in a thoroughly original piece of music.

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