Album Review: Pollinators — ‘Return Home’

Pollinators w/ Rubin Flores, Scottie Feller

Iowa City Yacht Club — Sunday, Sept. 22 at 9 p.m.

Pollinators w/ Dark Family, Aqualife

Rozz-Tox, Rock Island — Friday, Oct. 4 at 8 p.m.

At first listen, Pollinators’ new album, Return Home (out Oct. 4) seems to be from an era that never existed, but should have. It’s a version of the 1990s where Jer Bear got healthy and the swing revival never happened. Energizing guitar riffs make you want to lace up your Docs and jam. It sounds like Weezer before and after their pop makeover that gave us the Green Album.

But there’s a striking undertone of melancholy throughout. It’s so deeply embedded in the lyrics that you’re not consciously aware of it — you just wonder how this peppy record relates to the nagging discontent you’ve suddenly noticed.

Songwriter and frontman Tom Teslik opens the up-tempo first track with “Beautiful morning, terrible day,” sung in a mild, accepting voice. Track three’s instrumentals echo the familiar melody of a 1950s-era tune designed for couples dancing in high school gymnasiums — but in a minor key that reflects the song’s subject matter (hint: it’s titled, “Why Do You Cry”).

This is a break-up album. Teslik wrote it around the time he left both an abusive ex and his adopted hometown of Madison, Wisconsin to return to his actual hometown of Moline, Illinois. Collectively, the tracks reflect who he seems to be: an agreeable dude with some shit to get off his chest.

My personal favorite is “Action and Cut,” which includes lines like, “I don’t want to keep score / Plus, I’ve done it all before” while matter-of-factly acknowledging “that oxymoron love, so black and blue.” It’s downright comforting. The kid’s gonna be all right.

Pollinators celebrates this first 10-song album with a record release party on Oct. 4 at Rozz-Tox. Can’t wait that long? Pollinators will be at the Yacht Club in Iowa City on Sept. 22. If you can’t make either of those shows, you need to rethink your priorities.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 271.

Thoughts? Tips? A cute picture of a dog? Share them with LV »



Summer Programs 2020

Get 150+ local restaurants delivered to your door in the Iowa City & Cedar Rapids areas!

Don’t let other people’s opinions win.

Vote for your favorite people, places and events in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids area! In a time when local businesses need our support more than ever, your vote will send a little love to the places that make our community special. And don’t forget to tell us why—the best comments will be published in our December Best of the CRANDIC 2021 issue! Voting ends September 30.

Read the Best of the CRANDIC issue, on stands now

The Future is Unwritten

You look to Little Village for today’s stories. Your sustaining support will help us write tomorrow’s.


$10/mo or $120/year
The cost of doing this work really adds up! Your contribution at this level will cover telephone and internet expenses for one month at the LV editorial offices.


$20/mo or $240/year
$240 is enough to cover one month’s costs for sending out our weekly entertainment newsletter, The Weekender. Make a contribution at this level to put a little more oomph on your support and your weekend.


$30/mo or $360/year
(AUTO-RENEW) connects eastern Iowa culture with the world. Your contribution at this level will cover the site’s hosting costs for three months. A bold move for our boldest supporters!

All monthly and annual contributors receive:

  • Recognition on our Supporters page (aliases welcome)
  • Exclusive early access when we release new half-price gift cards
  • Access to a secret Facebook group where you can connect with other supporters and discuss the latest news and upcoming events (and maybe swap pet pics?) with the LV staff
  • Invitations to periodic publisher chats (held virtually for now) to meet with Matt and give him a piece of your mind, ask your burning questions and hear more about the future plans for Little Village, Bread & Butter Magazine, Witching Hour Festival and our other endeavors.