Melissa Polinar is simultaneously one of YouTube’s most beloved musicians and one of the world’s best-kept secrets. Opening her channel roughly seven whole years ago, Polinar’s prime songwriting skills and individual voice tucked somewhere between both intriguingly raspy and infectiously sweet and smooth were set at the forefront immediately, with things really taking off upon the release of her original video performance of “Try” . The upload has over a million views to date and, upon first listen, there’s no wondering why as it immediately conveys the heartfelt connection an artist can have with their listener through the gorgeous expression it carries through in its sound, sonically from one soul to another. Flash forward a few years later and it’s evident that on her debut full-length release, ‘Calls & Echoes’, this shared connection is accentuated to the highest degree.
The album starts on a high note with the smooth jazz-influenced number, “Always Need You”, that plays out in a way that it successfully envelopes all of the greatest things about Polinar’s vocal ability into what can only be described as one sweet, sweet arrangement. It’s a number that isn’t afraid to push that envelope a little further and a little further in terms of accentuating the adventurous nature of Polinar’s musical style, revealing hints of soul, gospel, and light rock in a way that is astoundingly effortless. In other words, Polinar successfully conveys her artistry to the listener in a way that is not fake or saccharine, but rather heart-driven and totally real– something that only becomes more obvious throughout the album. Not only does she adventure through her own sound space in a (positively) floaty and effortless way, but she knows how to take her audience on an adventure as well, with each track on the album continuing a successful conveyance of one’s life-story of love, heartbreak, overcoming the worst and embracing whatever is next to come.
On ‘Calls & Echoes’, Polinar calls some of her musical companions into the studio to better accentuate a few of the stories upon which some of her tracks are centered around. On “Above Water”, which was recently featured on our 20 Indie Love Songs of 2014 (So Far), Polinar brings in fellow YouTube musician Jeremy Passion to offer some beautiful harmonies on the chorus of what is bound to be a fan favorite on the album, touching on life’s struggles, overcoming them, and learning to love yourself for who you are despite what you’ve gone through. “When It’s Love That You’re Ready For”, featuring The Voice’s Tony Lucca, is a track that wouldn’t necessarily feel left out on a Southern blues/soul record in terms of overall arrangement, even further accentuating the artist’s slew of musical influences and her ability to inhabit a style like she was the one that founded it. Josiah Bell’s soulful, world-weary vocal adds a truly gorgeous layer to “Speak”, accentuating Polinar’s nuanced cadences perfectly. Finally, she joins Ernie Halter and Matt Cusson on the album’s closing number, “See the Stars”, which, if it were to be a visual performance, would certainly be the most prepossessing thing you could ever lay your eyes upon.
Other immediate stand-out tracks include “Happy”, “Find You”, “Feels Like Home”, and the newly-polished studio version of “Try”, though all songs on the album come across in a way that there are no throw-aways whatsoever.
Melissa Polinar’s ability to tell a story through her work is unprecedented, and as aforementioned, really takes listeners on a beautiful adventure through one’s life journey. ‘Calls & Echoes’ is an album that is altogether hopeful and cautious, hushed and stentorian, solemn and fun-loving, and consequential and spontaneous in a way that all of its themes masterfully come together under a common motif of taking life head-on and learning to love it for all of its imperfections. Polinar displays herself as an amazingly talented singer and songwriter across a 13-track showcase that can only be truthfully depicted as superlatively mellifluous. It will be intriguing to log Polinar’s musical journey from here after already successfully shooting for the stars this early on, but it can be safely assumed that it will be an absolutely fantastic evolution to be held. A singer/songwriter-type like Melissa Polinar doesn’t come around very often, and when they do, it’s a very special thing. ‘Calls & Echoes’ flawlessly ferries this conjecture across the metaphorical shore.
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