Album Review: Ma Jolie – “Polars”

Ma Jolie is a gruff punk band hailing from Philadelphia. Keeping in tradition with other great bands that have hailed from the same city, they play a brand of melodic punk rock that any and all Fest-goers are well versed with, and are likely to enjoy. The band recently signed to Lame-O Records to release their sophomore album, Polars. Ma Jolie may have only formed two years ago, but they play as if they’ve been together for longer, and Polars is a testament to that.

Almost everything about this album seems rather familiar upon first listen. From the buzzing guitars to the chunky bass and from the shout-along choruses to the almost Fuel for the Hate Game-feel in the way that the lead vocals and backing vocals play off each other, there was a lot going on in these songs that made me feel right at home the moment I put it on. The momentum of Polars stays pretty consistent throughout its nine tracks… although with only nine songs and an average song length just shy of three minutes, it’s kind of disappointing that the band didn’t have more to offer during the recording sessions. There’s the old adage that ‘less is more’, and oftentimes that’s true, but I’m willing to bet that Polars wouldn’t lose its charm even if it had ten or eleven tracks.

Polars is at its peak when the band is at their poppiest (or may I suggest “at their most melodic” as an alternate way to word that). While the banality of standing still and leading a normal life is a recurring lyrical theme throughout the album, tunes like “Kansas Slam” and “Cannonball” both take that lack of action and turn it into an unbridled, shout-along energy. “Brace, Smile” and “Ghost”, the album’s respective bookends, provide some of the biggest hooks on Polars, kicking off the album with the declaration “I’m breaking my back just to keep my smile straight” (a sentiment that’s sure to resonate with bearded punks everywhere) and ending with the explosive chant of “I don’t want to be alone anymore!”.  Mid-album tunes like “Passive Active” (the intro of which sounds eerily Smoking Popes-ish) and “Song About Boats” also contain melodies that are nothing to sneeze at, especially that bass work in “Song About Boats”.

While it would be easy to describe the band as a melodic punk act in the vein of Hot Water Music or Latterman (and I’m not saying that it’s not an accurate way to put it because it kind of is) it seems almost a disservice to Ma Jolie to put it so simply. Polars isn’t a perfect record, but for every lull track that lets my mind wander, there are two songs that immediately snap me back into the listening experience. And a ratio like that isn’t too shabby at all. Ma Jolie is not a band to miss out on, and Polars helps to set them in the right direction.

4/5 Stars

RIYL: Hot Water Music, Latterman, Iron Chic

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