Polecat reads at times like a cooler Dave Matthews Band and at others like a chiller Michael Franti and Spearhead. The members of the band are extremely talented instrumentalists, which means that they can pingpong back and forth between the sort of acoustic-based instrumental jam that DMB is best known for and the free-wheeling, world-music-informed pop songs that Franti is mostly known for (Ok, it’s really only that “Say Hey (I Love You)” song, but you know what I mean) without missing a beat anywhere. As a result, Into the Wind is a remarkable album.
The instrumental songs are really where Polecat blows it out of the water. Armed with a mindmelting drummer that occasionally takes center stage with complex rhythms, unique sounds, and incredible taste, they’re able to pivot between parts of songs seamlessly. This is an important skill when you’re cranking out songs that mash up Irish folk melodies and reggae (as they do in the cleverly named “Lochs of Dread”). They also know how to meld American folk, traditional country, acoustic pop, and more into their eclectic mix. It wouldn’t do justice to try to explain all the inventive fusions they create: just know that they tear it up in ways that both impress and surprise me, which is a rare achievement.
Elsewhere they show off their vocal melodic ability, in tunes like “In the Cold” and “Fly on the Wall,” where the band wraps itself around Aaron Guest’s melodies. Polecat is proof that you can have catchy pop melodies and not sacrifice an ounce of musicianship–if more people would take up the mantle, music would be a much more interesting place. But it starts with every member of the band being incredible talented at their instruments, and that’s a rare thing. (If everyone were as talented as Chris Thile, we could all be the Punch Brothers, for example.) All that to say, you’ll be singing along while also cocking your head to try to hear the guitar, drum, and fiddle parts that make the songs so interesting.
Polecat’s Into the Wind has fun songs all around, whether they’re instrumental or singalong. If you’re into an album that both shows off instrumental prowess and makes you smile, you should check this one out ASAP.