POLLYANNA BLUE – Trials & Tribulations EP

This debut EP from Pollyanna Blue is a short but amazing work. Latching onto a style where the alternative elements collide with a heavy electronic groove, they sometimes come across like a heavy version of Metric and Transister, but the musical duo wield some serious muscle and add their own much harder edge to a genuinely classic sound.

The four track release pulls together three digital singles released between 2020 and 2022, and is rounded out by a previously unreleased track. For those who’ve followed the band’s progress since the beginning, it’s a release that’ll provide a handy stock-take. However, it’s more likely that a lot of listeners will be approaching the material with brand new ears, and in terms of creating a good first impression, things couldn’t play any better.

Using ‘Saviour’ as opening bait is a very smart move in terms of reeling in the unsuspecting, first time listener. After a quick drone to fade in, its opening riff has all of the tough but melodic hallmarks of a ‘House of Gold & Bones’ era banger from Stone Sour, before branching out into an equally tough alternative sound where the clean, pop-toned vocals collide with a heady groove, almost like a marriage between Metric, Halestorm and The Pretty Reckless, but with much better songwriting. Vocalist Zoe Collins uses this tough sounding platform to address mental health issues in a simple and direct manner. “It’s time to come to my senses” she cries at the song’s outset, before confessing she applies too much pressure upon her daily battles. The important message neither takes a back seat, or feels like heavy handed preaching. It’s a tough balance to strike, but Pollyanna Blue absolutely nail it here, since the musical backdrop continues to maintain as much interest. A quieter middle eight hints at a love of goth-tinged pop, and moving back into a heavier riff, Collins shows how brilliantly she’s able to wield a massive guitar riff. With the perfect blend of anger, self doubt, sadness and openness, metal-based riffs and huge melodies, this is a near perfect three minute rock single.

It’s by no means a fluke, either. The slower ‘Haunted’ makes more room for a crushing bassline which fills a particularly moody verse, but as before, its the moments when the guitars kick in that the Pollyanna Blue sound really comes through. On this tune, that same juxtaposition of crunch and accessible melody is vital, and Zoe’s crying vocal style adds a massive melodic curve that fits the music brilliantly. The ringing guitars the provide the core of the main riff do their utmost to deliver a hooky charm, but they’re no match for Zoe’s huge vocal which settles somewhere between The Pretty Reckless and a couple of overlooked deep cuts from Bif Naked. Factor in a mid tempo grunge-ish groove to underscore a round or two of massive “whoahs” and you’ll discover a tune that applies a retro charm to a contemporary sound, further suggesting a band headed for big things.

A combination of sassy vocals, deep drums and muted chords used to open ‘Strong Enough’ revisits a similar retro grunge territory to that of Hands Off Gretel, but does a much smarter job. Wading through some decidedly mid 90s sounds, Zoe wastes no time in unveiling a brilliantly sultry vocal which becomes even bigger when the main hook hits, whilst bassist Rich Earle anchors everything with a solid bottom end. With far bigger melodies informing a great chorus, Pollyanna Blue’s mix of pop, rock and alternative metal dances across the full spectrum of noise, and with a wordless interlude that teases with an almost Arabic melody, there’s a hint that they have even more up their collective sleeve. The fact that something this good manages to be the EP’s weak track says so much about the rest of the material…

The EP’s highlight ‘Sapphire Lake’ takes a little bit of a left turn when it combines the usual alternative crunch with more atmospheric elements. Following an intro where wordless vocals and echoing guitars evoke the musical equivalent of being on a beach, the track blooms into something that sounds like a strange mix of Morcheeba and Garbage, its slow and accessible style really allowing Zoe to share a softer vocal in kind. With the post-90s mood occasionally joined by a rockier guitar, it’s clearly the work of the same band, but it’s great to hear the duo not only branching out, but doing so in such a bold way, successfully. With Zoe’s voice eventually reaching from the soulful to a full on cry, it easily demonstrates a very natural talent. In lots of ways, this captures as much power as the band’s noiser alt-rock grooves. For those who heard the other tracks in advance, the musical shift might seem surprising at first, but in time, this will certainly become a favourite, and its more mature feel suggests creative talents with a much longer shelf life.

In terms of alternative rock, this is seriously good. There’s a lot about the Pollyanna Blue sound that’s immediately familiar, but always enough in the way in which they approach their riff based sound that often makes it sound pretty fresh. Between some amazing vocals and genuinely massive hooks, fans of thoughtful alternative rock in the vein of Veruca Salt, Metric, and even Crystalline are in for a treat. Grab a download as soon as possible.

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July 2023