Polar Similar might be the best Norma Jean record.
It plays like a space odyssey through a turbulent asteroid field. The numbered interludes offer a false sense of security by slowing down, completely letting you think the bumps are over before unleashing the madness all over again. “II. The People” is a recorded voice saying nothing important and “III. The Nebula” is a soft instrumental respite that can also be done without.
Aside from those, the madness almost doesn’t stop. It’s a steady dose of build ups leading to the auditory version of bombs exploding. “I. The People” shoots Polar Similar right out of the gate. The record might at first appear chaotic and wild, but Norma Jean are in control the whole 53 minutes. “Forever Hurtling Toward Andromeda” and “Death Is a Living Partner” are relentless but focused beams of fury; they are the most concentrated instances of rage. “Reaction” and “Everyone Talking Over Everyone Else” are wild and all over the place, but always tethered to the body of what Norma Jean has built. “The Close and Discontent” feels like everything is going wrong at once, but this deep into the record it’s clear that the band has remained in control the entire time. Then you reach “IV. The Nexus,” and after the first eight minutes of this track the journey ends just as it would in space–with a deafening silence.
Polar Similar rivals any other work Norma Jean has done. Eliminate the useless interludes and you have a ferocious collection of songs working together to take you into a world of anguish and a bold lack of regret. It is undoubtedly one of the best records of this year.