Palomar, a Brooklyn-based band consisting of tres chicas and uno chico, is a bit of an enigma to me. They're on an indie label, their albums have been reviewed by reputable sources such as Pitchfork, people here and there seem to have heard of them, they just went on an (admittedly rather small) national tour, and they have way more MySpace friends than I do. Still, the shows they play are in tiny, albeit pretty cool, venues that are never all that packed and I often get the feeling that there aren't as many fans as there are friends in attendance. On top of which, a Google search for "Palomar" brings up a community college district, a laser medical treatment center, and the very observatory from which the band's name is derived and then the band's website. All in all, I can't tell if this band is blowing up or just chugging along steadily and I just wanted to share my confusion with you guys, okay?
The other reason I mention this is that it is possible that what I'm writing here will be your introduction to Palomar and I find that frightening. You may have taken notice of the fact that if someone printed out and assembled the majority of the content on this site into an impressive dossier, you'd have a strong argument for having me committed for quite some time. That said, know that sane people like Palomar too and, regardless of how mental I am, I feel it's worth getting the word out (as much as this site can, anyway) about this band...because they are cool.
The first thing I heard from Palomar was the song "Woah!" from their EP, Palomar 3.5 and I fell head over heels in love with it. It was and is quite simply one of my favorite songs ever (joining the ranks of such classics as the Sealab 2021 theme by Calamine, "No. 13 Baby" by The Pixies, and "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" by somebody who is old and thus not deserving of being named). However, to be honest, it didn't go too far beyond that. I listened to the rest of the EP and, aside from a noisy bit of rock with the song "Washington," I sort of didn't care. I listened to "Woah!" on repeat for a few days straight (seriously), but largely ignored the rest of it.
I ended up downloading their previous albums, Palomar II and Palomar III: Revenge of Palomar (I did pay for the EP, though, and I really and truly plan to buy physical copies of the older albums very soon). There were a couple of punky, fast songs, but before long I pretty much, with the exception of "Woah!," didn't even remember Palomar was on my playlist.
So, when Palomar added a song from their new album called "Our Haunt" to their MySpace I was pleasantly surprised to find that it rocked the fuck out and, as a result, I purchased the album, All Things, Forests shortly after its release...and I t'weren't disappointed!!
First and foremost, my enjoyment of this album led to me going back to the older albums and giving them another chance and finding that, oh, oops, Palomar has actually been pretty awesome for awhile now. What I keep seeing reviewers say about this new album is that the band has REALLY MATURED and made a SERIOUS-ASS ALBUM (I know, isn't that appalling language for a legitimate review site to use?). Well, you know what? Sort of, but, not really.
They've always had sweet vocal harmonies (to which the entire band contributes), catchy guitar riffs, and lyrics that just plain entertain me. What they've done here, at least in my opinion, is narrowed down their focus to their strongest type of song. I cannot speak on the first album because it's evidently not widely available, but Palomar II was an album of crazy-fun poppy punk tracks (note: NOT pop-punk, as that sort of thing tends to be a lot worse) interspersed with slower songs that I usually skipped over. Also, the lead singer's voice was kind of, um, off-key sometimes. Palomar III is sort of similar, but the fast songs are already clearly less in the spirit of happy-go-lucky punkishness (an established genre) and have something darker and heavier behind them. Also, the lead singer sounds a lot better.
That said, Palomar's best stuff has always been the songs that sort of take the Pixies approach and combine both slow, pretty sounding stuff with some rocking that would make your momma tell you to turn that racket down and, to be fair, they've always had songs like this. "Static" on Palomar II is a good example and "The Planeiac" and "Work Is A State Function" from Palomar III would probably fit snugly right alongside the tracks on the new album. The big difference with All Things, Forests is that you get more of it. Add to that the following enticing features!!! The lead singer sounds like she's completely aware of what to do with her voice at this point, the overall sound (the mixing maybe? Like I really know) is just more polished, and they dropped the whole Led Zeppelin style of album-naming (although I do believe this album is technically also known as Palomar IV).
Feminism!!! This time you've gone too far!!!!
This album basically takes all the things I liked about Palomar and does away with the stuff I didn't particularly care for. I do love this album. And if I put it on, I'm inclined to, unlike with their previous efforts, listen to it all the way through. But I must still admit that I'm more in love with specific tracks ("Beats Beat Nothing" is so brilliant it's scary) than I am with the whole thing. And I do lament the loss of SUPA-FAST songs like "Knitting for Pleasure" and "Up!" from older albums. The bottom line, however, is that this album made me stop listening to "Woah!" ad nauseum (which is very much appreciated because it's been like two years now) because there are other songs that are totally worth my (INCREDIBLY VALUABLE AND LIMITED) time.
If you like good rock music, check this band out. They rock, but they also sound real pretty-like. They're indie, but I'd hardly compare them to most other bands that are branded with the genre. And they're nice (when it suits them) people to boot. Oh, yes, the lyrics also kick ass. How can you not like "He slips on my old black pants, overlooking their length and their size?" HOW CAN YOU NOT?!
Palomar just keeps getting better and better and if this album rocks as much as it does, their next release has the potential to rock hard enough to actually cause physical damage.
I CAN'T WAIT!
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