Poliça: When We Stay Alive review – airs of elegant detachment

(Memphis Industries)

Minneapolis’s Poliça set out their stall on their excellent 2012 debut, Give You the Ghost. With Ryan Olson’s ahead-of-its-time blend of indie, alt-R&B and electronica the perfect foil for Channy Leaneagh’s effects-smothered vocals, the overall feel was like a pitchshifted Cat Power fronting Portishead. But as the years have passed, rather than taking that experimental streak anywhere, they’ve continued to mine the same seam of elegant dinner-party music.

Given that it was written either side of a 2018 fall from a roof that left Leaneagh with a damaged spine and in a back brace, their fourth album could have been a chance to explore new horizons. There’s a less abstract approach to the lyrics, with Leaneagh referencing the dynamics of her family (Steady) and a failing relationship (Forget Me Now). But even when she sings about intensely personal issues, such as on the standout Be Again, about her recovery from her fall and how she had to learn how to sing again, her voice is so heavily treated that the lyrics are hard to decipher, giving an air of detachment that’s at odds with the tone of the lyrics. With none of the material really cutting through the production wizardry, this is another triumph for texture over songwriting.

Listen to Steady from Poliça’s When We Stay Alive.


Phil Mongredien

The GuardianTramp

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