And it was all a dream.
The United Kingdom formally entered lockdown on 23 March, making a near-perfect three-month gap through spring and into early summer in which almost exactly nothing happened. The music industry, like many others, staged a deliberate bluff in the face of uncertainty before eventually conceding the need to postpone and altogether cut releases.
As marked by the opening of the pubs, there is the sense that the long-awaited ‘new normal’ is finally here. We are fortunate, at least, to be taking our first steps outside in the midst of summer. The prospect of re-emerging into some forgettable grey November may have seen delayed albums lose all relevance to the energy under which they were composed. Indeed, the music now making headway is that which has been able to adapt to the perceived end of lockdown: HAIM’s summery LA glow (postponed from April 24 until June 26), for example, maps nicely onto the newly-found universal desire to claw back some of those lost moments before 2020 is deemed a complete write-off.
It would be easy to assume Polo & Pan’s latest EP as being marketed to a similar hurried, hedonistic urge – grab a towel; we’re going to Málaga! From the off, Feel Good stays loyal to its brand, whirring and jamming along to its own groove. It calls itself a “celebration of optimism” and is not shy to seem – by its own admission – “uncomplicated”.
And sure, “Feeling the spring, crisp morning light / Tingle you get, love at first sight” opens the EP, jittery and keen to get things moving. After a three year period of hibernation, the Parisian duo has had all the time in the world to release this record – and this feels like the right moment. Sharp and full of energy, it may risk leaning too far into its trip at times but never feels out of control. It is perfectly deliberate in what it wants to say.
But the softer moments will draw out any deeper insights. ‘Attrape-Rêve’ – dreamcatcher – spells out a little more clearly the careful balance between chaos and order; what is structurally winding and uncomfortable finds its opposite in precise, intelligent production. It is never decidedly sad but verges on complexity, wandering and wallowing through thought. As such, the EP relies on the same general assertiveness that carried Caravelle to mass acclaim and kept everything tight. A much shorter venture, Feel Good does not benefit from the strict self-referential concept that ran through the debut album but instead serves as a broad summary of where things have gone in the last three years.
This is not a whole new wardrobe for Polo & Pan – and nor did it need to be – but the EP welcomes the opportunity to draw on a wider pool of influences, citing The Wizard of Oz, Nepalese psych-rock and the recently deceased Ennio Morricone among its source material. None of this is particularly off-brand, but it does seem determined to say something a little different this time.
This new freedom to consume and to engage with the exterior world is exciting, although we risk missing the point if we deem experience good for its own sake. Fundamentally, Feel Good is a cheery reminder of summer and warmth and the simple pleasures in life – but it would be a shame to allow it to fill a token role as just one in a long line of new music. Sooner than considering this the return to ‘business as usual’, let us see this move as a first step into the open potential of the unknown.
Words by James Reynolds