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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
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+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
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+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
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Jetpack Blues

Each listen to Polara's radiant new album Jetpack Blues magnifies the Minneapolis trio's accomplishments. Based on the evidence here, singer/multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Ed Ackerson is a rock 'n' roll visionary of the highest order, with a resplendent feel for the dynamics of record construction, a gift for massive, irresistible choruses, and a knack for weaving all kinds of divergent elements into seamless wholes.

Ackerson has such a capacity for songs, it would be easy to label him a classicist like Noel Gallagher of Oasis. That, however, would understate how imaginative most of Jetpack Blues reveals itself to be, even beyond the immediate pop pleasures that alone would make this one mandatory. The best sort of pretensions went into the making of this record; it wouldn't be a stretch to think Ackerson and bandmates Jennifer Jurgens (guitars, striking and sympathetic singing, various keyboards) and Dan Boen (bass, synthesizers, programming) sat back in the studio debating how to make the perfect rock 'n' roll album. It also wouldn't be much of a stretch to say they pulled it off.

The album works partly because of its intimate relationship with a whole history of cleanly produced pop-rock; its musical touchstones range from the Beatles on up through Matthew Sweet to the most tasteful Oasis output. Guitars are never too far down in the mix, but they're always tuneful; dissonance isn't a part of the Polara sound. Ultimately, the music is challenging for its detail but not its sound, which is left to serve as an invitation to Ackerson's direct, emotionally compelling songs. Like the mid-to-late-period output from Liverpool's Fab Four, Polara's fascination with rendering emotionally accessible, musically complex pop songs suitable for radio is a defining characteristic.

After the initial jumble of hummable tunes and generous feeling, the flourishes start to stand out. Weaving through the catchy melody and underneath the shimmering production of "Wig On" are Jurgens' lovely vocals, adding a layer of gloss to an already-sparkling four minutes. And when she stretches the last word of the chorus ("I'm not afraid to get higher") over the fade, it nearly undermines gravity. I mean, you can feel yourself lift off the ground in joy and release. And that doesn't even begin to do the song justice. There are fabulous couplets ("How could something so ecstatic/ Slowly become automatic?"), the soaring-est of soaring guitar solos, and a relentless rhythm track that makes you feel like you're running down a steep hill.

These are songs made for the radio, for summer, for motion, and mostly and simply, concerned with love's connections and disconnects. "Sweep Me Away" is another reminder of how new infatuation can pull us from the emotional stasis of everyday living; it lurches and throbs with passion, its chunky guitars giving way to a perfect chorus. Opener "Can't Get Over You" explodes with purpose, Ackerman's vocal hiding beneath the thundering drums and deferring to a wild harmonica at its finish. Elsewhere, the soul-revue horns that propel "Is This It?" and the Stonesy guitar break at the 3:27 mark compete for attention with the title track. "Jetpack Blues" is buoyed by a choral background vocal (probably overdubbed to death but who cares — studio trickery is part of the charm) hanging on the line, "It's a sound that could break your heart." Other than that insistent phrase, it's a slight lyric, but that doesn't reduce the song's attractiveness or its emotional pull. Like the majority of the lyrics here, they sound good as they're sung, even if laying them bare from their musical backings would leave nothing worth pondering. And if we're not quite in "Louie Louie" territory, the lesson of that dumbest of all garage classics holds true. Complexity does not equal meaning.

First five songs? All classics. And there are more waiting on the flip side.

Jetpack Blues. The title is perfect when you think about it — anachronistic yet accurate. It's the perfect name for a classic record. All the old-world charm of rock 'n' roll (songs, durability, driving beats, vocals that make your heart stop — or start), still fulfilling expectations of a modern pop album (indifference towards genre boundaries, production that walks that elegant line separating glossy and slick, tasteful use of synths and programming), demanding to be played again and again.

by Ryan DeGama

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