Poliça – ‘Madness’ review: bright album marks end of an era for alt-poppers

The Minneapolis quartet sum up their first decade as a band with a neatly formed, bite-sized package

Poliça’s fourth album, 2020’s ‘When We Stay Alive’, told the story of vocalist Channy Leanegh’s near-fatal accident which saw her fall off the roof of her house and smash her spine to pieces. Across that album, her physical rehabilitation became mental too, proving a total re-evaluation of her personal and professional life, with the album reaching a glorious resolution at its close.

Its follow-up, ‘Madness’, is billed as a companion piece to ‘When We Stay Alive’, and an endpoint for the first era of Poliça. Emerging at the start of the 2010s with two drummers, a bassist and Leanegh’s tricky, manipulated vocals front and centre, the quartet have slowly and carefully honed a sound sitting on the fringes of modern R&B and alt-pop, gaining them fans in Bon Iver and Jay-Z.

Across 31 minutes and just seven songs, Poliça are impeccably focused on ‘Madness’, packaging up their first decade as a band into a neatly formed, bite-sized package. There are stomping beats on ‘Violence’, ambient textures on the title track and the percussive rhythms of ‘Blood’ on show, everything the band have done so well for the past decade.

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‘Madness’ is also an album that looks to the future, though. Alongside the band’s producer Ryan Olson, album five sees the band welcome a new member, AllOvers(c), an “anthropomorphic production tool” designed by Olson alongside sound artist Seth Rosetter. Much like Everything Everything calling upon A.I. to write lyrics for new album ‘Raw Data Feel’, the impact of the tweaks aren’t immediately obvious, though the production on ‘Madness’ does happen to be particularly gorgeous – we’re not sure whether to be thanking the new robot for that or not.

While ‘When We Stay Alive’ put its lyrical message front and centre – the context of Leanegh’s accident was integral to understanding the album’s lyrical arc and resolution – ‘Madness’ keeps its cards closer to its chest. All Leanegh has offered of the album is the following: “I am here for you all and I am never truly myself here. I am her for you all and I am never truly her”. Instead, it’s the album’s bright, rhythmic instrumentation that tells the story. Certain lines of Leanegh’s heavily processed vocals peek out (“Waking up on Monday, bound with resolve that I’d never need another” on ‘Away’), but the thudding, anthemic synths of opener ‘Alive’ and the slinky percussion of ‘Blood’ do the talking.

Appropriately closing their first chapter as a band with a leftfield electronic jam called ‘Sweet Memz’, Poliça have set the groundwork to create plenty more with whatever comes next.

Poliça

Release date: June 3
Record label: Memphis Industries

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