Record Label: Triple Crown Records
Release Date: April 20, 2004
The worst feeling in the world has to be that of missing out. Whether you were living under a rock or just plain too young to catch on at the right time, you can’t help but wonder what it would have been like to be in the moment, to be part of something that you’ve grown to value so much in hindsight.
This is the feeling I get when I listen to Northstar’s Pollyanna.
I just think about what I would give to go back and just be one of the people who supported this band when this album came out; to be there when they came to my town; to annoy my friends all day long and beg them to give Northstar a listen and buy a CD.
But what can I say? I was nine years old when this album came out. If I would have given this a listen by some slim chance, I could have only thought, “what the heck is this guy saying?” By the time I did give this album a listen, the band was long gone.
But my history with Northstar was just beginning.
“Just forget all about fate/ while I unlock this gentleman’s promise” begins Nick Torres on the energetic opener “For Members Only,” and immediately we are introduced to the many facets of Northstar that should have made them so much more prominent in their heyday. First of all, there’s no denying the vocal prowess of Torres, with his gruff yet polished melodies that make for such a powerful performance. Secondly, I must call attention to the lyrics on Pollyanna, which should have set them far above most of their contemporaries. Torres shows off his keen sense of imagery right from the album’s outset:
I am a prince
With paper parts
Made of spit and paper dolls
A killer's karma has been bound
A broken bow...
She's got this problem with people flying
One-way tickets and a fear of crying
But these are the things she can take apart
These are the things I will take...
It’s almost painful for me, thinking about it. If I was just a little bit older, I could have been one of those kids singing my heart out among several others, these words would be leaving my lips with just as much passion and energy that they had leaving Torres’s as Northstar stood before us.
While “For Members Only” and the title track open up the album with lots of traditional pop-punk deliciousness, Northstar certainly has much more to offer. My personal favorite track, “American Living,” showcases the band’s versatility well, taking its time to build from a slow burn beginning to a lively chorus that speaks of a catharsis and a yearning for life even in the most lifeless of times:
And this is so typical...
Erased by the author of me...
So dance to some broken chords
With broken knees
Through open doors
And save me with a microphone
Give me something so I can go home.
The important thing to remember is that Pollyanna is by no means an album of sugary optimism. No, Pollyanna takes its dives into darkness just as often as our own lives do, with “The Accident Underwater” and “The Pornographer’s Daughter” patiently sailing their way through accounts of painful waters:
It got so bright it died
And blew up all over the inside
Of my leather white eyes
And it spread all over.
What makes this album so special is its ability to balance almost perfectly between brooding introspection and infinite hope. The album’s content dips and rises in a motion similar to the album’s music, marrying pop hooks such as the one in “Between Horns and Halos” with delicate acoustic balladry in “Two Zero Two.”
“When I fall, don’t forget me,” Torres belts on closing track “Rocket City,” leaving me to ponder even more about the significance of Northstar. Now, over eight years removed from the release of Pollyanna, have people forgotten about them? Has anybody picked them up and given them a chance even though they are long gone? I mean, why should they? There’s nothing to look forward to: no live shows, no new album. Here’s why: Pollyanna is just a downright fantastic album. An album that leaves me wondering every single day “What If I had been there?” This album is one of the reasons why I listen to new bands every chance I get, because I do not want to be left haunted by the idea that I never had a chance to stand behind a band I love and say “I support you.”
So here’s something to leave you with: when you neglect to listen to that one band because you don’t like the way their hair is cut, because you don’t like the way they spell their name, or because you just don’t like their album cover, think about it, that album could be your Pollyanna many years down the line. And you may want to kick yourself for missing your chance to support them, but they left you with the gift of their music anyway, and that’s enough to keep them alive.
And it’s still okay to hope that they come back some day.