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A spooky whisper draws you into the first track of Jonny Polonsky’s The Other Side of Midnight. “Chip Away The Stone” starts with a dark synthesized sound reverberating out as the slow beat begins to pick up. The somewhat haunted mood is set, and it is clear that Polonsky is going for much more than anything that would be categorically typical. The synthesizer resembles the feeling you get when you watch a horror film, and the characters are walking down a dark and dingy hallway into potential, or inevitable, doom. Even though you, as the viewer, know it might be a bad idea to proceed down that hallway, thanks to the beauty of foreshadow, we keep watching, as we appreciate the thrill of the suspense. The soft and subtle percussion is also used to propel the mood, building to the rather Phantom of the Opera-esque organ sound. Another song on the album that takes on a similarly dark theme is “We Could Last Here Long.” Its rather ominous use of the synthesizer, along with the whisper-like vocals brings a more haunting vibe back to the album, later on in the game. The vocals are prominent, emotional, and very pure, elevating the heavy feeling emitted in the complete sound.
From a lyrical standpoint, the album is really strong. “Waiting for Something” has a dreamlike sound to it. The lyrics state: “dream me away from it all, dream me to nowhere at all, take me away from this place, beam me to black outer space.” What I most appreciate about Polonsky is his uncanny ability to create the feeling of his lyrics within the instrumentation he uses; this is also a testament to his high level of production skills. Before even hearing those chorus lyrics, I immediately picked up on the quality of the sound. You’re transported to a dreamlike state, and Polonsky doesn’t rush you to grasp that concept. He lets the music build before introducing the lyrics, which only furthers the listening experience, making it more real and enticing. The song ends about a minute after the vocals stop, as the song fades out slowly and melodically into Polonsky’s own personal dream.
Another track in which he displays talent in marrying composition with lyrics is “The Motherlode.” Beyond being one of the more classic rock sounding of the tracks, the vocals stay breathy and calmingly whisper-like at times, and build to the harmonies at other times. The track is slower paced, but it’s artistically crafted to allow you to become absorbed in the verses before emerging into the more hopeful feeling of the chorus. He allows the song to build in a most patient way. The harmonies are inviting and the acoustic guitar is a prominent part of the melody of the chorus. To me, the clearest, most unaffected lyrics in the whole track are “We came here to reveal and free ourselves.” These lyrics are powerful and liberating. He uses the airy quality of his voice to enforce that idea and to establish the lyrics even more so. At the end of the track, he changes them to “We came here to believe in love.” The message is clear, and it’s obvious that Polonsky uses sheer musicianship to dictate the way he composes and produces his tracks.
My favorite song on the album is “Forever’s End.” Like “The Motherlode,” this track also takes on a more classic rock vibe. In this song, Polonsky uses a palm-muted guitar, mixed with other sounds and instruments to create a pathway for his voice and his guitar to soar above the melody. The melody seems purposely understated, but the simplicity of the palm-muted groove is what makes me love it so much. When a song can manage to shine due to its simplicities and subtleties, the purity of the lyrics and the melody can really shine. The end builds up and the synthesizer backs up the palm-muted guitar part. There are moments where the acoustic guitar is strummed so perfectly and fingerpicked in such a way that it perpetuates a feeling of freshness and serenity. I appreciate “Sunset Night,” another favorite of mine, for similar reasons. The acoustic guitar is clean and clear. The strum pattern and the vocal melody together are completely reminiscent of classic rock ‘n’ roll. Polonsky makes classic rock new and intriguing, and I’ll happily give him credit where it’s due.
When I think over the album as a whole, I cannot help but notice the purposeful mood changes throughout certain tracks. The drums are more prominent in “Lay Down Your Arms,” but Polonsky’s vocals still stay on the breathy side. By the end of the track, the synthesizer leads the melody in a more hopeful way. The mood changes within the track are impressive and allow the listener to be brought through a range of emotion. “Going Home” beautifully uses electronic sounds to accompany a quieter acoustic guitar in the background. The synthesizer is ominously strong in the verse, and the chorus is more hopeful sounding. The lyrics to the chorus provoke deep thought: “Tell me what you think, tell me everything you feel. Tell me what you see, what is true, what is unreal.” Polonsky provides us with the means to connect to his lyrics, as the sound even becomes space-esque at times, thanks to the synthesizer changing vibes in a more airy and open way. His vocal range is impressive in this song, and it almost comes as a bit of a surprise, as he clearly doesn’t use his full range in the other tracks. Knowing his musical abilities, and knowing that he didn’t feel that he needed to throw it in our faces makes me appreciate him more as an artist. “Going Home” also brings us through a range of emotions. I would consider it an encapsulation of the entire album, and that’s why it’s a great closing track. Polonsky is an artist who makes compositional and lyrical choices to change the mood of a song, connect lyrics to a feeling, and make the experience all the more genuine for the listener.
Article: Alex Feigin