New Trick EP
Oklahoma-in-origin and now Tacoma, Washington-based step-sisters Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse formed Skating Polly in 2009 as a pre-teen and teenager, respectively. The alternative rock/grunge-pop duo is known for crafting aggressively energetic, melodic sing- to shout-along rock and more fragile, reflective ballads.
The multi-instrumentalist (Mayo and Bighorse switch between guitar and drums, and other noise-makers, depending on the tune) singer-songwriters applied their fun-punk attitude and DIY ethic to four rawly dynamic and infectiously catchy albums, 2010 debut Taking Over The World, 2013’s Exene Cervenka-produced Lost Wonderfuls, Beat Happenings’ Calvin Johnson-produced Fuzz Steliacoom in 2014, and The Big Fit from last year.
Mayo and Bighorse have taken the next step in the development of their powerful sound on their EP New Trick, which arrives April 28th via El Camino Media. They refine and complexify their bold, rough-hewn compositions with assistance from renowned Veruca Salt co-leaders Louise Post and Nina Gordon and producer Brad Wood (Liz Phair, The Smashing Pumpkins, Sunny Day Real Estate). The sisters also added their brother, Kurtis Mayo, to the fold. The result is a 3-track EP of rich and compelling alternative rock/pop that at moments ventures into the post-rock/shoegaze realm.
Skating Polly’s co-writing and recording partnership with Post and Gordon is a sophisticated fit. While it’s hard to deny the gutsy potency of the duo’s past work, the New Trick EP brings out a mature, modern sound as opposed to the ‘90s grunge-plunged tunes of the past. Gone is the brusque, Bleach-era Nirvana-like ‘Verse, Chorus, Verse’ sonic lunge and Babes In Toylandesque in-yer-face vocal vehemence.
Modulation of dramatics is key on New Trick, as shown on power-pop EP-opener “Louder In Outer Space”. It flows through quieter verses and vigorous chorus sections with ease. The guitar, bass, and drums set-up is bolstered by subtle percussion, sporadic piano notes, the slap of cymbals, and rattle of tambourine. Bighorse’s vocals are also smoothed over and drawn out; still forceful, but with a gently blooming tone.
Ominous “Hail Mary” is close in mood and structure to Skating Polly’s older numbers, but it stays restrained at the start, letting two potently foreboding verses pass by before exploding with a grinding chorus of jaggedly stabbing guitars and swirling miasma of urgent, layered vocals. While the no-frills lyrics are still as direct and vivid as of yore, Mayo’s vocals are alluring and focused; less emotionally spasmodic; more low-key, yet intense in her lyrical intent.
Post-rock opus “Black Sky” closes the EP on a high note, commencing with emotionally tempered, lightly sung vocals backed by whispery harmonies. Ticking drumsticks, a shadowy bass line, and subdued guitar verses segue into a flowering cycle of warped, shoegaze guitar distortion, emphatic drum strikes, cymbal bash, and haze of vocal harmonizing. Mayo and company may think they’re “Killin’ time” and waiting for something (or, well, someone) to (re)appear on "Black Sky", but for fans of Skating Polly and newcomers to the band, New Trick is a treat that was worth the wait.
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