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Poliça – Shulamith

Poliça – 'Shulamith' album review

The Minneapolitan band sound cool and menacing, and tackle some big questions, on their second album

By Clare Considine
Channy Leaneagh, the deceptively angel-faced vocalist with Minneapolis band Poliça, has been at the five-word review game. She describes their second album, ‘Shulamith’, thus: ‘Drums. Bass. Synth. Me, woman.’ Critics beware: she has this thing nailed. Like The XX’s eagerly anticipated 2012 album ‘Coexist’, Polica’s second offering doesn’t startle with a shocking new sound, because it doesn’t need to – they already did that on the first album. Instead ‘Shulamith’ picks up where Poliça left off with ‘Give You the Ghost’, continuing to perfect their idiosyncratic, haunting brand of… well, drums, bass and synth.

So the same sound prevails, courtesy of the group’s stay-at-home producer Ryan Olson. Poliça’s hypnotic, post-trip hop sea of dubby R&B and well-crafted electronica is cool and occasionally menacing – the sound of David Lynch smoking a Gauloise in a dimly lit club. The band’s number one fan, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, makes an appearance on lead single ‘Tiff’ – a brooding track which wraps Leanagh and Vernon’s dreamy vocals in velvet synths – while the follow-up, ‘Chain My Name’, is a bouncier number, its angular pop hooks belying the dark edge of the lyrics. So far, so Poliça.

But this is not a band afraid of dynamism and new territories. With their sound nailed, they have the creative space to focus on their message – and so to the ‘me, woman’ bit. The album’s title is a homage to Shulamith Firestone, a feminist activist who Leanagh describes as ‘my muse and my mentor from the grave,’ and throughout its 12 tracks the theme of womanhood is addressed with whiplash directness. It’s a motif continued by the album cover and by the video for ‘Tiff’: a bracingly violent depiction of Leanagh on both sides of a torture sequence, which serves as a mission statement for the album. Leanagh describes it as ‘a portrait of a woman as her own worst enemy’.

In a world of M&S’s nervous ‘womanism’ and Beyoncé-style kinda-feminism, it is refreshing to encounter a band not afraid to be straightforward. With ‘Shulamith’, Poliça incite debate and tackle weighty issues – and all to a pitch-perfect soundtrack that earns them the right to get heavy. Buy this album here

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