Poliça’s debut album, Give You The Ghost, was a startling introduction to a band intent on experimenting with expectations of genre and taste. With their rich blend of brooding synths and highly-processed vocals, Poliça somehow managed to find warmth beneath layered electronics, exposing the humanity in the digital. Though Auto-Tune had been used in indie and alternative music before, Channy Leaneagh’s vocals felt novel partly because they were immersed in the dreaded pitch-correction software for an entire album. The result was not tacky but striking, enabling the band to form a new and haunting aesthetic.
During the opening notes of Shulamith it might seem as though Poliça have veered into the very tackiness they had always avoided so well. But after a short while the bright, unnervingly plastic synths that introduce ‘Chain My Name’ give way to excellent melodies and a thick, heady atmosphere. In fact, when those suspect synths return the song becomes positively euphoric, a joyous anthem that teeters but never slips over the precipice into bad taste.
Unfortunately, Shulamith lacks the immediacy of Give You The Ghost. Where many songs on their debut felt like dramatic wake-up calls, here Poliça provide few moments to replicate that experience. But that is not to say that this is a bad record. On the contrary, it is a highly-accomplished and subtle album that will reward those willing to put in the time.
Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, a frequent collaborator, guests on the shuddering lead single ‘Tiff’, his ethereal voice blending satisfyingly with Leaneagh’s over a slow, seductive groove. Other highlights include the unfortunately titled ‘I Need $’, with its bleeping synths and sighing vocals, and ‘Spilling Lines’, in which hyperactive drums and bass back a strong vocal line that eventually descends into a distorted and wordless – but ultimately brilliant – mess. Indeed, the details in Leaneagh’s lyrics never prove particularly important. She transforms words into waves of soothing, free-form wails, to powerful effect.
Ultimately, Shulamith is a fine follow-up to a great debut. It may not astonish in quite the same way, but over time it proves to be just as rewarding. Some might have suspected that their unconventional style was little more than a gimmick, and one that would grow tiresome over time, but on the evidence of this record, Poliça clearly have much left to give.
Shulamith was released on Memphis Industries on 21st October 2013.