Poliça – ‘When We Stay Alive’ review: comeback album is a stunning tale of redemption and rehabilitation

Poliça singer Channy Leaneagh feels her way through a period of rebuilding, using music as a crutch

Back at the start of 2018, Poliça singer Channy Leaneagh suffered a life-altering accident, falling off her roof while clearing ice and smashing her vertebrae. The time that followed, which saw her have severely limited mobility, started as a period of physical rehabilitation, but quickly morphed into a mental stock-take too.

The story of the Minneapolis band’s fourth album ‘When We Stay Alive’ started as a rewriting of the story of her accident, which the doctor asked her to write down in order to process her feelings. Soon, though, it travelled beyond simply just the aftermath of her accident, and her attempt to leave behind the anger and trauma that she felt over the incident, and became an all-encompassing re-evaluation of her life thus far.

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“I had been living unconsciously in past trauma,” Leaneagh has said. “I don’t want to deny something happened – this is not about repression – it’s about taking the power back from the past, holding the power in the present, and creating a new story for myself.” This new story, laid out across ‘When We Stay Alive’, is a stunning tale of redemption and rehabilitation.

Poliça have always been masters of twisted, left-field pop music, but ‘When We Stay Alive’ predictably arrives with a new level of clarity and power. Snow falls on the tip of my tongue, tasting blood of the violence to come,” begins opener ‘Driving’, digging back into Leaneagh trauma before she begins rewrite the narrative at the track’s conclusion as she repeats: “See how she’s leading.”

Musically, ‘When We Stay Alive’ mirrors the feeling of physical rehabilitation, the sense of claustrophobia unavoidable on the knotty ‘Fold Up’. The second half of the album, though, strips away the fog and the anger, finding blissful moments of clarity and closure that feel like real eureka moments.

Across the glacial, acoustic-led ‘Steady’ and the anthemic ‘Forget Me Now’, the crowded tenseness that’s always defined Poliça’s music melts away, and the circle appears complete. It’s a reminder that – whether you’re writing it or simply consuming it – music can help you rebuild yourself back up when you’re at your very lowest.

Release date: January 31

Record label: Memphis Industries

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