With their debut EP, The Redder, The Better, Polar Bear Club garnered much attention along with comparisons to post-hardcore torchbearers Hot Water Music and Small Brown Bike. They ride some decent hype with their debut album, Sometimes Things Just Disappear on Red Leader.
Sometimes Things Just Disappear is a well-balanced yet occasionally repetitive listen. Tracks like "Hollow Place" and "Burned Out in a Jar" show off the best PBC have to offer: strong musicianship, decent lyricism and a very gritty, yet harnessed feel. It's evident, for example, in the intro to "Burned Out in a Jar," where they manage to turn moments that would feel cliché and obnoxious in other bands into respectably unique songs. In other words, they are able to hit the emotional dynamics without giving off the nauseating feel of those bands who make a living out of them. The key is the grit and energy. Though the production is well done, the band still leaves a very intimate, raw imprint on the songs.
Despite a strong similar feel throughout the album, the music varies enough to engage the casual listener. Sans vocals, tracks like "As Twere the Mirror" and "Another Night in the Rock" recall Forty Hour Train Back to Penn-era Movielife, which is not a bad thing. In fact, tracks with legitimately accessible hooks help the album flow without getting stagnant.
As for the vocals, they are the really focus of the majority of the songs. Vocalist Jimmy Stadt sounds most of the time like a mix between Hot Water Music's co-vocalists and As the Eternal Cowboy / Searching for a Former Clarity-era Tom Gabel (of Against Me!, for those residing under rocks). Occasionally a bit heavier than his obvious influences, Stadt works his highs and lows well, with an ever-present gruff edge. The vocals are well-executed, playing with the music rather than separately. Individually, each musician stands alone well talent-wise and the tight execution makes for an impressive result.
Sometimes Things Just Disappear closes in a very enticing fashion. After a minor fall-off ("Tried" and "Our Ballads" tread dangerously close to filler) the band kicks it in with what are two of the album's stronger songs. Starting with "Heart Attack at Thirty," PBC shift into high gear and inject a bit of No Trigger / Bigwig-style melodic punk into the formula. Leading with the quality line "Eight years from now / I will go into cardiac arrest / There is no doubt / My body will pay for this," the song revives you after a bit of a lull in the album. The closer "Convinced I'm Wrong" follows the cliché formula of soft strummed notes exploding into an emotional climax, yet without all the feeling that they are trying hard to be epic (a problem that has plagued a few bands when closing an album). The vocals are passionate enough to feel genuine and the dynamics work well, bringing a satisfying close to the album.
All in all, a well executed debut full-length from Polar Bear Club. Though they are way ahead of their age, Sometimes Things Just Disappear is a step or two away from a classic. The influences are present, but so is their own personal touch. The musicianship is good and the lyrics are decent. With a bit more variation and a couple more years of experience, Polar Bear Club could produce a real gem. Their career is off to a great start and I'd bet that this album will be looked back on as the start of something great.