Review Rewind: Rooftops-A Forest of Polarity

1,405. that’s how many local recordings have been reviewed in What’s Up! over the last 15 years. Some good, some not so good, all offering something to the local scene and in these pages. A review was and will always be a band’s chance to get some press and show folks what they are doing. If a band lives around here, or on a local label, we review it and have never turned anyone away if they met one of those qualifications. Among the recordings reviewed, a few really stood out for one reason or another – it might have been how good it was or the impact it had on the scene or the statement at that time. This issue, we re-reviewed 15 of our favorite records over the last 15 years (and included a blurb from the original review) and talked not just about the music, but why the recording is important in the music scene’s history. Every one of these recordings should be on your iTunes, find ‘em, listen to ‘em, love ‘em. We do.



December 2009: “This is Bellingham at its finest and I’ll say it now: my vote for best album of 2009.”


First released locally via Clickpop in 2009, and then re-released nationally on Boston’s Topself Records, A Forest of Polarity almost perfectly blends the musical intricacy of acts such as Don Caballero and Cap’n Jazz with the dynamics and emotional impact of groups like Explosions in the Sky and Sigur Rós. Three guitars noodle around fantastically technical drumming, weaving melodies that are immediately approachable and yet complex enough to still be worth dissecting almost four years later.

The first four minutes of the record maintain the same impact that they held in 2009: atmosphere and ambiance descend into labyrinthian technicality and then immediately jump into accessible pop hooks. From that initial barrage, however, much of the meat of the record blends together into a common sound that makes individual tracks somewhat difficult to distinguish. Certain moments, such as the frantic introduction to “Tear as I Fly” and the occasional inclusion of extra instrumentation and vocals, manage to stir things up a bit, however it still feels like somewhat of a chore to have to identify tracks four through eight from each other. This is not to say that the tracks are bad by any measure—they simply feel like reworked versions of the same great piece of music rather than individual works.

Fortunately, the final 15 minutes of the record, composed of “Era Falsity” and “Sea Frailty,” show Rooftops once again finding unique voices for it’s tracks and as a result they become the most powerful moments of the record. The two works recount, conclude and magnify every thought introduced throughout the previous 30 minutes and yet somehow manage to kick the emotional impact up another few notches. Even three and a half years after first hearing it, I still get chills when the horns and strings kick in at the climax of the “Frailty”. It is easy to call A Forest of Polarity a fantastic local record, but settling with that label would ultimately be a disservice to a record that holds it’s footing against anything it’s genre on a national scale.

–Toby Reif