I'm about to spill 200 - 300 words on Not Here, but there's only one word that matters: majestic.
Few reviews of Not Here will fail to mention the Pollies' Alabama roots, so I suppose I should do my journalistic due diligence. There's been a lot made about whatever's in the water in Alabama -- spawning artists like Jason Isbell, Lee Baines III, and, of course the Alabama Shakes (with which the Pollies share fewer than six degrees of separation.) But I think the secret is less that there's gold in thar hills as that when you make music because it feels good, instead of wanting to get famous, and if you're then bolstered by a community that feels the same way, you get the "phenomenon" that we're seeing in Muscle Shoals. These people are artists, and they don't need to move to Brooklyn or Nashville to make that art. Now that we have the Internet, it almost doesn't matter where your home base is.
The Pollies absolutely belong in the company mentioned above. While they've been known for their sloppily experimental approach to alt-country, Not Here, carries an emotional weight that didn't come through on Where the Lies Begin. The opening song, "Jackson," begins with a triumphant orchestral arrangement that clashes with the violent lyrics. As it turns out, Jackson is a tribute to a clergyman who was shot to death in front of his mother at a precursor to the march on Selma. His death in part inspired further actions.
There are also more intimate dramas, such as the album's linchpin "She..." an almost apologetic song that relates a relationship that couldn't sustain the tensions of an itinerant lifestyle. Jay Burgess' impassioned vocals are matched only by the band's intensity. (I'll also never complain about an engineer who puts the bass fairly prominently in the mix -- it serves to make all of these songs sound distinctive without being too out of left field.)
Not Here can't help me thinking about peaks. While it's only their third recording and second album of a band, I feel like if this were my best artistic output, I'd feel pretty great about that. Realistically, everyone's got their one best work in them. I don't think this means the Pollies are incapable of doing better -- I never thought that an album like this would follow on the heels of Where the Lies Begin -- but it would be hard for anyone to top Not Here. This is absolutely album-of-the-year material.
The Pollies -- Official, Facebook, Purchase Not Here from Single Lock