The alt.pop minneapolis band tackle dark sounds and serious issues on their second LP
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. Leanagh wears her feminism lightly, choosing to operate at a personal level and talk about her own experiences rather than making sweeping generalisations.
The album opens with ‘Chain My Name’ and Leanagh wondering, “Are we just made to fight/All our lives?” over pulsing digital bass, whipcrack drums and shimmering synths. The vocals are distorted rather than Auto-Tuned, which sums up Poliça’s shift to a darker sound. Things get even darker on ‘Smug’, a kiss-off to a cheating lover that feels almost gothic. Meanwhile, the funked-up bass and cavernous echo on ‘Tiff’ have shades of ’80s Prince about them, as do the lines “I don’t want a diamond ring/Found a man, and he’s found me/It’s a pact like a lion’s den”. Love is a battlefield.
The only mis-step is ‘Very Cruel’, an ungainly clash of snarling synth bass, trip-hop beats and Leanagh straying into theatricality as she struggles to compete with what’s going on around her. It sounds like a Portishead reject.
But this is a momentary blip. Overall, ‘Shulamith’ is a record that takes on serious issues but always feels engagingly personal, with ideas set to the kind of alt.pop melodies you couldn’t forget even if you wanted to. If you’re looking for comparisons, try somewhere at the uncharted interface of La Roux, Robyn and Grimes. No-one has been here before.