Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Rooftops - 'A Forest of Polarity'

With A Forest of Polarity, Washington post-rock act Rooftops show a knack for shimmering guitar parts, epic passages and even a dash of funky aspirations. Like Minus the Bear, the group focuses its progressive technicality into tighter arrangements. While Rooftops never get as dance-centric as MtB – especially if you’ve heard Omni – there’s still a lightness to the song structures that sell them, even if the band usually stays away from choruses, or vocals in general.

The first half or so of the album could be seen as a suite. Tracks one through four segue into and complement each other so well that it’s easy to interpret them as one song broken up into movements. “Fiery Atlas (Intro)” provides opening fanfare before “Astray Life” busts out some noodley, gnarly guitar work. That tune in turn transforms into the stuttering yet danceable rhythm of “I Fast Early.” “Raft Easily” introduces vox to the mix, and while the guitar leads are still the more compelling angle, the song’s few lyrics still provide some welcome contrast.

“Raft Easily” ends with a strong pause before “Year as Lift” can begin, but they’re still stylistically of a piece: finger-tappin’ guitar parts, propulsive drums and now we’ve got horns instead of singers. The rest of the album follows suit, tweaking the band’s formula while still delivering the most reliable elements time and again.

Forest isn’t a perfect album – it lacks Planet of Ice’s dynamics, for example – but it settles into a groove and rides it well, even if it means that the second half sounds an awful lot like the first half. Additionally, the song lengths grow as the album progresses, leading eventually to the 10-minute closing track, “Sea Frailty.” Given the way the songs play into each other anyway, this isn’t much of a criticism, but the latter tracks still feel like they could use some editing. “Sea Frailty” trots out all of the ideas the previous nine tracks exhibited, and the similarities make its bloated length even less interesting. Still, though, as a whole, Rooftops’ latest offers intricate yet catchy prog songs for folks who aren’t usually turned on by math rock.

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