Los Angeles three-piece Pollyn do not fit easily into any one genre, yet one thing that remains constant is their mutual fascination with the sample-heavy ’90s electronic scene. Perhaps inevitably, this has led to favourable comparisons with Portishead. The threesome – vocalist Genevieve Artadi, guitarist Anthony Cava and percussionist Adam Jay Weissman – subsequently developed a niche and an effortlessly cool sound on the back of this penchant, based around Artadi’s seductive vocals and frenetic beats.
Their debut album, 2009’s This Little Night, was not released in the UK, meaning that they have had very little exposure away from their homeland. That is, until now. Their new album Living In Patterns has now received a European release with two additional tracks following its original release in 2011. So, while it’s technically the band’s sophomore album, it really is the first time many will come into contact with Pollyn.
It may be a good thing too, as Living In Patterns is a much more accomplished LP than its predecessor. Not only that, but with the album’s dreamy vocals, hazy electronics and funkier beats, it is much more accessible. This is captured perfectly by the lead single from the album, How Small We Are, which comprises several different elements coming together to create a fun and enjoyable song. It’s based around a steady beat and a minimal – but nevertheless infectious – guitar riff, which has Talking Heads written all over it.
Sometimes You Just Know follows a similar formula, with another shimmering guitar riff and catchy chorus punctuated by a handclap beat, as Artadi sings: “Sometimes you just know/ how it’s going to go”. You’re Okay plays up to the aforementioned Portishead similarities, with an ominous, darker atmosphere and heavier synth bringing a new sinister edge to Artadi’s vocals. Meanwhile album opener Hot Air demonstrates just why Pollyn become an eight-piece when they perform live. The song features a wide range of restless sounds, plus a checkered beat, outer-space synths and a funky bassline, in what can only be described as an amalgamation of ideas.
Although Living In Patterns starts strongly, it does vary in quality from halfway onwards. The industrial sounds of Going Through The Motions may make it one of the most adventurous tracks on the album, yet despite its catchy hook, it ultimately falls flat on its face, and Outta Luck – one of the two new songs to the Europe release – wouldn’t sound amiss on a Flight Of The Conchords record mocking ’80s electronic music, with its Tetris-like hook and repetitive, straightforward lyrics.
The album does pick up again as it reaches its conclusion, with the throbbing beats of Lost In The Night – the second new addition to Living In Patterns – working well with Artadi’s smooth vocal as the trembling electronic noises filter in and out. Before album closer Look For Light demonstrates both the range of Artadi’s vocals and what Pollyn can do when they really put their minds together. It’s a carefully measured track, one which sees the trio keep things simple to great effect.
Overall, this is a marked improvement on Pollyn’s first album. That’s not to say that their debut was necessarily poor, but Living In Patterns is the result of a band beginning to feel more comfortable with their own sound. As a result, the record is more cohesive as a whole and therefore a much better listen, even while the weak middle brings it down with plodding, unimaginative beats. However, Pollyn are clearly moving in the right direction and what’s more, if they are given time to develop properly, they will only get better.