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Reviews: Polvo's "Heavy Detour" b/w "Anchoress"

Polvo's Heavy Detour b/w Anchoress single

Should I even use the word “reunited” in reference to Polvo anymore? Since their 2008 reformation, they’ve reworked their back catalog for live sets, released an excellent LP in 2009’s In Prism, and rather suddenly re-emerged with this single. Unlike a certain reunited band who’s remained in set-list stasis for eight years now, Polvo’s too restless to stand still.

“Heavy Detour” b/w “Anchoress” heralds the group’s as-yet untitled new album, due on Merge Records in an as-yet unannounced timeframe. The a-side, available for streaming here, splits the difference between the mid-tempo pace of Dave Brylawski’s three contributions to In Prism and the driving guitar loops of “Beggar’s Bowl.” Brylawski’s vocal melodies have improved, the energy level is up, and the presence of both sitar and electronic strings (reminiscent of Helium’s The Magic City) makes perfect sense. “Heavy Detour” bodes well for that upcoming LP.

Ash Bowie’s “Anchoress” takes a more ponderous route, exploring one of Bowie’s intractable, vaguely unsettling narratives with lyrics like “The seasons turn and she fashions a shrine / Arranging all the apples in symmetrical lines.” Lighthearted keyboards cut through the atmosphere, but the song’s keyed by its tense closing jam, which threatens to run long before a 45-enforced fade-out.

The alternate take of “Anchoress,” available as a digital download with purchase of the 7”, revisits the mid-fi production values of Polvo’s Today’s Active Lifestyles and Exploded Drawing. The noisy guitars are a welcome return to that era, especially when they recall the lurching of “When Will You Die for the Last Time in My Dreams.” While I’ve grown to appreciate the polish of In Prism and “Heavy Detour,” the grime of this alternate take of “Anchoress” fits the tone of the song better.

To return to my opening point, no, I should not use “reunited” in reference to Polvo’s post-2008 output. “Heavy Detour” b/w “Anchoress” isn’t a worthy pick-up because it’ll scratch your nostalgic itch; it’s a worthy pick-up because these two songs are excellent additions to a daunting discography. That’s past tense vs. present tense, and it’s time for more of Polvo’s reunited peers to join them (and Superchunk, Dinosaur Jr., Mission of Burma, etc.) in the latter category.