Release Date: Oct 22, 2013
Record label: Mom + Pop Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Last year’s debut from Minneapolis indie-electronica band Poliça thrived in the interplay between the band’s equal and opposite halves. The two drummers and bass player laid the foundation of an art-rock R&B, while Ryan Olson’s synthesizers and beats and Channy Leaneagh’s adventurously manipulated vocals created the album’s space-age sheen. But while Give You The Ghost was a mostly subdued and meditative album, its songs living (despite the two drummers) in a sort of natural constraint, the band’s follow-up, Shulamith, is hyper and edgy, driven by a manic tension that pushes both Poliça’s physical and synthetic spheres into new realms.
Shulamith—the follow-up to Poliça’s excellent 2012 debut album, Give You The Ghost—possesses continuity in terms of the band’s distinct sound, yet still contains traces of electronic experimentation woven throughout the record. The band dip their toes in the waters of the avant-garde by creating larger, more sonically expansive songs; however, they never fully submerge themselves into new territory with this album, which becomes both the band’s main strength and weakness. .
The songs on Poliça's acclaimed debut Give You the Ghost flowed into each other in a blur of feelings and sounds that evoked the Cocteau Twins working with a cutting-edge 2010s R&B producer. Wisely, Channy Leaneagh, Ryan Olson, and the rest of the band don't try to recapture that stream-of-consciousness beauty on Shulamith. Instead, on this more ambitious and effortful follow-up, they bring order to those chaotic emotions, most notably in the frosty slickness of Olson's production and Leaneagh's more assured singing.
It's no secret that Poliça's sound is built from contemporary indie tropes, as the Minneapolis group combined yacht rock tempos, Auto-Tuned vocals and R&B rhythms on last year's debut, Give You the Ghost. With their follow-up, Shulamith, the quintet find themselves drifting further back into denser territory, using '90s trip-hop and millennial British chill-out as starting points for their newfound sleek and steely sound. Vocalist Channy Leaneagh (also of Midwestern super-group Gayngs) comes across darker and more adventurous on tracks that range from dynamic ("Vegas") to moody ("Trippin") to downright playful ("Matty"), all the while remaining defiantly melodic and blissful.
Poliça’s debut of last year was an exquisite offering of darkly polyrhythmic pop-weirdness, fused with auto-tuned vocals that permeated into the entire blend like couronne sweet bread bursting with fruity tang. If ‘Give You the Ghost’ had been a show-stopper on the Great British Bake-off, Mary Berry would probably have called it ‘scrummy’. This follow-up polishes up on the central successes of the debut, and makes them even more irresistible and organic.This time round, Mary Berry would’ve asked for Poliça to scribble down the recipe, because ‘Shulamith’ carries forward all those cohesive elements, and manages to take them to the next level.
There are two covers to Poliça’s Shulamith floating around. The first is a pixelated smudge, a silhouette like a blocky comma, elegant in a way but subtly disturbing. The second, in high-resolution, reveals the image for what it is: a woman, back turned, skin bare and hair slick with fresh blood, defiant or defeated. It’s unsettling no matter which you look at first, and intentional or not, it’s eerily reminiscent of what made Give You the Ghost one of 2012’s most unexpectedly complex debuts.
Author of influential and criticized text The Dialect of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution, radical Canadian feminist Shulamith Firestone was a founding member of various prominent feminist groups, including New York Radical Women, Redstockings, and New York Radical Feminists. Perhaps moved by Firestone’s recent death in 2012, Channy Leaneagh has devoted her band Poliça’s second studio album, Shulamith, to conveying a message of feminism reminiscent of that of Firestone’s. In the music video for Shulamith’s lead single, “Tiff” (feat.
The opening sentence of late Canadian feminist Shulasmith Firestone’s 1970 book The Dialectic Of Sex reads: “Sex class is so deep as to be invisible.” You could argue that not much has changed in society since that line was written, and it is an inspiration to Poliça frontwoman Channy Leanagh. “[Firestone] is my muse and my mentor from the grave,” she says. “I want people to know about her.” Hence the name of Poliça’s second album.There may be a political a genda within ‘Shulamith’, but it doesn’t detract from the same sort of delicate synthpop that made her 2012 debut ‘Give You The Ghost’ such a joy.
Poliça’s debut album Give You The Ghost was a truly singular record. On paper, it could scan as if they were pandering to gimmickry. Two drummers has the vague ring of needless decadence. The way in which Channy’s vocal was smothered in auto-tune could have played out as hipster contrarianism ….
As their 2011 debut, Give You the Ghost, made abundantly clear, Minneapolis's Poliça is one of the few bands who can make the use of AutoTune more tolerable, often employing its robotic timbre to enhance the chilly alienation of their electro-R&B. The effect is dehumanizing and sensual at the same time, producing glitchy vocal lines that serve as stark contrasts to the band's hissing, twisting synth jams. As a result, Give You the Ghost was basically babymaking music for robots, weirdly sexy a la Björk's “All Is Full of Love,” a sound that aligned its eerie and horny qualities so perfectly that Leaneagh and bandmate Ryan Olson can be forgiven for sticking with the same game plan for their follow-up, Shulamith.
On some level, Poliça – led by singer Channy Leaneagh and producer Ryan Olson – couldn't sound more like they were from Minneapolis. On their second album, the followup to 2012's buzzy Give You the Ghost, these kids blend distant, white-on-white melodic minimalism with early-Prince electro burp-'n-grind. Leaneagh gets into bad love on the surprisingly rock "Very Cruel" and complicated love on the thunderous "Matty," while, on "Tiff," Bon Iver main man/fellow Midwesterner/Kanye collaborator Justin Vernon shows up to backstop lines like "Have the bullet/ He has the gun." Apparently, America's Portishead can be found skinny-dipping in Lake Minnetonka.
Released early last year, Poliça’s debut album Give You The Ghost was one of the most surprising success stories of 2012. The Minneapolis four-piece earned praise from critics and artists alike for their moody, atmospheric R&B-inflected pop, including from names such as Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Jay-Z. They quickly became the year’s The xx, balancing their unique and individual sound with overwhelmingly positive reviews.
Poliça's Give You the Ghost – a beguiling mix of warped R&B and heavily Auto-Tuned vocals – was one of 2012's most subtly insinuating debuts. The follow-up doesn't find them deviating wildly from the template. Channy Leaneagh's treated vocals are still bewitching, even if they are frequently indecipherable. Former Gayngs man Ryan Olson, meanwhile, conjures a backdrop that's equal parts unhurried xx spaciousness and Portishead noir.
Alongside the xx's Coexist, Poliça's debut Give You the Ghost caught the dinner-party perfect, alt-R&B zeitgeist at its peak. Fronted by Channy Leaneagh and produced by Ryan Olson, the indie group sculpted a sound that was at once avant garde and easy-listening, and at one point even earned them Jay-Z's seal of approval. Named after feminist activist Shulamith Firestone, their second album continues to Auto-Tune slinky soul, but begs for a more attentive audience: Smug and Very Cruel spin Portishead's moody trip hop into dreamier soundscapes, while Matty – short for Matrimony – and Chain My Name are both lyrically loaded with societal frustrations.
About twenty seconds into album opener “Chain my name” Poliça’s second full-length release finds its groove. For the remainder of that track and for its eleven subsequent songs Shulamith rarely strays from the fine mixture of Channy Leanneagh’s languid vocals, glossy, pushy synths and latent, trip-hop inspired percussion. There may be fewer hooks than can be found on 2012’s acclaimed debut Give you the ghost but for what this record lacks in terms of instant gratification it more than makes up for with a potent lyricism that channels the eponymous radical feminist Shulamith Firestone most evidently on the alt-r’n’b penultimate track “I need $”, “I don’t need a man/All that he does I can/I don’t need a love/got enough worry to fill me up”.
I was a late-comer to Polica’s stunning debut Give You the Ghost. I bought it as a treat to myself after one of my last university exams in January of this year, and immediately regretted waiting almost a year to experience the record. It was an almost perfect debut, and pleasingly, the second album from the Minnesota group follows quite distinctly in its formidable footsteps, while still retaining a very clear identity as an LP in its own right, unique and distinct from the act it’s trying to follow.
Poliça's debut album Give You The Ghost languished in my 'listen later' folder, (one that doesn't get checked on as much as it ought to), until one crystal-clear morning in early summer a chance encounter with the shuffle button threw-up the song 'Form', and I found myself hooked. Pity that Shulamith happens to come out in autumn, just as the nights are drawing in. Against this backdrop Poliça sound almost too much at home.
opinion byBRENDAN FRANK After they splintered off from the musically-incestuous group Gayngs, Poliça quickly figured out how to distinguish themselves from the glut of groups peddling nocturnal, R&B-laced electronica. They employed auto-tune artistically, they emphasized rhythm through use of a second drummer, and in-house producer Ryan Olsen massaged the music to the point where singer Channy Leaneagh’s introspective musings could speak for themselves. There were no truly handy comparables (though La Roux or jj would do in a pinch), Poliça were exploring new ground.