Rooftops, A Forest of Polarity

Rooftops, A Forest of Polarity

I have a bit of a knee-jerk negative reaction to instrumental rock bands. Let’s face it — “instrumental rock” can be code for “stoned late-night jam sessions.” That’s why Bellingham, Wash., math-rock band Rooftops was such a pleasant surprise. A Forest of Polarity is absent any psychedelic tangents or one-note solos.

First, let me say that the album isn’t completely instrumental. There are sparse vocals on a few tracks — namely, the jerky, wandering “A Layer Fits” and “Era Falsity” — but the majority of the album consists solely of delicate guitars, staccato drums, and the occasional trumpet and violin.

By now you may be thinking this is Explosions in the Sky I’m talking about. Nope. Although it’s a fair comparison, Rooftops stand out in a few key places. Where Explosions are delicate and sparse all the way through, Rooftops have a more substantial, rough-edged sound. They make songs that are warm, fast, and bright, with rhythms that are somehow both unconventional and catchy.

After the short and trippy intro track, A Forest Of Polarity blares into life with the fiery “Astray Life,” full of lots of fancy guitar fingerwork. Later comes “Raft Easily,” which sleepily circles a pretty riff for a while, then suddenly becomes a pop song, complete with handclaps and strummed chords. “Leafy Stair,” the second longest track at six minutes, best displays the band’s ability to transition, from pretty and gentle to percussive, and back again.

And for those of you who have picked up on a pattern from the track names I’ve mentioned — yes, each track title is composed of the same ten letters. I don’t know if there’s some hidden meaning behind this, or if the band just wanted be clever. I’m sure some people will think it’s corny, but I’m impressed that they took the time to do it. Anagrams are hard, man.

You’ll hear a repeated song structure throughout the album: pretty fingerpicking, followed by drum fills and some stronger guitar, followed by a percussive breakdown of the initial riff, then back to fingerpicking. Although this makes the album as a whole feel kind of predictable, each song on Forest is a gem, taken individually. The band’s sound is complex, but not heavy; bright, but not overly sweet. These musicians have talent and a pleasantly original approach.

Thank you, Rooftops, for not being one of those average instrumental rock bands that disappoint me so much.

(Clickpop Records -- P.O. Box 5765, Bellingham, WA. 98227-5765;; Rooftops --; Rooftops (Myspace) --
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Tuesday, December 7th, 2010. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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One Response to “Rooftops, A Forest of Polarity

  1. Kenny Eaton on December 19th, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    Brilliant post! I play guitar in the loop-based math/post/prog rock band, Time Columns. The entire foundation of our sound is built on guitar and keyboard looping using the Gibson Echoplex and related loop pedals to create layers of intricate rhythms. I’m wondering if you might be interested in writing a review of our latest album release, Sunriseinthesea EP, or conducting an interview relating to our music, upcoming January tour and looping. Send me an email at and I’ll be happy to get you anything you need. Thanks in advance for your time and consideration. Once again, great post! You can download Time Columns’ EP for free at

    -Kenny Eaton/Time Columns (TOUR DATES, MEDIA) (FREE DOWNLOADS)

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