REVIEW: Pocket / Ma Jolie
by Chad Jewett
Full Bloom, the debut LP from Philadelphia post-hardcore three-piece Pocket is a sturdy, workmanlike collection of songs, warmly reminiscent of a mini-era at the end of emo’s early 2000s epoch when bands like Moneen, Armor For Sleep, and Further Seems Forever were last making this kind of elliptical, thoughtful melodic punk. It’s a finer balance than you might think keeping the sweetened hooks of “Big Mouth” from feeling cloying amongst the song’s sharper moments, or coming up with the circular, catching riff that begins “Arc It”, the kind of guitar figure that could scan as Drive Like Jehu or Hey Mercedes depending on which angle you happened to catch it from. Not everything works on Full Bloom – the start-top rhythm change at the very top of “I’ll See You When I See You”, for instance, feels both too du rigueur and too disorienting – and the album’s echoes of an era marked at least in part by the genre’s decline isn’t always flattering, but there’s still a lot of taste and a lot of smart craft at the heart of Full Bloom.
Ma Jolie make music whose spryness belies its bulk. The vocals are all gruff baritones, guitars come almost exclusively in the humid thickness of Hot Water Music or A Wilhelm Screan, and all four songs on the band’s new EP, Jetpack Mailman are coated with rich, churning bass. The record is peanut-butter dense, but stays in motion, even if, as is the case with EP-highlight “Ego Tourism”, Ma Jolie are at their best when they slow down enough for you to notice the band’s attentive gift for texture as something other than sheer, thrumming impact. The song spends a solid half of its three minutes wide open enough to actually see how all of this stuff congeals, and it’s the most compelling stretch of the record. Similarly, “Pittsburgh” benefits from being a bit lighter on its feet, sporting the EP’s best melody, and a sense of fun (that climbing two-part shout harmony will always be the sharpest arrow in melodic punk’s quiver) that is probably Ma Jolie’s best register. Only “Canyons” seems to devote the band’s considerable heft to a song that doesn’t have anywhere to go, and the track’s Green Day-esque gallop-bounce rhythm seems beneath a band like Ma Jolie who, everywhere else on the record, have plenty of imagination in making punk move in three dimensions.