Palomar: All things, forests

Pure power-pop for now people, All things, forests perpetuates the classic, hook-heavy glory days of Get Happy! and Plastic Letters. Brooklyn-based Palomar replicates The Breeders' three female-single male configuration but Palomar's sound is more pop than indie, though the group's attack does typically rise to a fierce roar (hear the guitar solo tear up the tarmac in “Our Haunt” and a shoegaze tsunami almost bury the vocals in “Woah!”). Palomar's guitars, bass, and drums set-up isn't new, of course, but inspired singing, impassioned playing, and clever songwriting never go out of style. The group offsets a tight yet still raw instrumental crunch with creamily smooth vocals (primarily by lead vocalist Rachel Warren) and three- and four-part harmonies, and sometimes sweetens its guitar-centered material with organ and piano (e.g., the wistful torch anthem “The Air Between Us”).

One or two listens are all that's needed for the band's intricate hooks and choruses to implant themselves in your skull; trying to prevent “Bury Me Closer” and “Our Haunt” from lodging themselves in memory is a fruitless task. Also memorable is the roller-rink pop of “You're Keeping Us Up” where the band trades off vocals like a juggling act, while “ Bridge of Sighs ” coyly drops a few bars of 7/8 into its driving dreampop; adding further contrast, the album closes with an epic ballad (“Surprise Us”) and a plodding anthem (“Alone”).

All things, forests is actually the group's fourth album, coming after Palomar III: Revenge of Palomar which was released on The Self-Starter Foundation after the originally-scheduled venue Kindercore closed its doors. Understandably, then, the new album expresses loss, jubilation, wistfulness, anger, and frustration in its wry examination of death (“Bury Me Closer”), relationship breakdowns (“Our Haunt”), weariness (“Bridge of Sighs”), and thwarted ambition. Still, All things, forests' momentum and energy show that, sonically, whatever the setbacks that dogged the band have bolstered its enthusiasm, not diminished it.

April 2007