Shulamith is the second album from Minnesota synthpop group Poliça. Last year they served up Give You The Ghost, an album full of floaty pop melodies and esoteric vocals. It walked a path worn by the Cocteau Twins and various trip hop artists – moody symphonies and electronic beats creating a darkly emotional tapestry of layered sound. Their new release has them sticking with the downbeat style that has so impressed critics internationally but with a stronger drive and more accessible catchiness.
This new energy is evident from the first track ‘Chain My Name’. Leaping straight into a synth-driven electronic bass, Channy Leneagh’s voice soon falls into line, displaying greater energy and confidence than on the previous record. The album is full of almost ironic lounge jazz licks – are they ironic or sincere? Does it matter?
Some of the synths are reminiscent of Numan-era fantasy pop; some basslines could fit into the soundtrack for a whimsical video game. ‘Very Cruel’ starts with a sinister melody that wouldn’t be out of place on one of Trent Reznor’s records, while ‘Spilling Lines’ opens with a 140bpm house beat before resolving into a more breaky style. Poliça excel at drawing together these disparate electronic elements and using them to build something warmer and less obvious than the sum of its parts.
Though Leneagh has said Auto-Tune “adds a certain amount of drama … and control,” there are moments where it is overly noticeable and slightly jarring. At times some tracks fall into an unanchored, vaguely soporific haze, but these moments are rare and sit between tight and focused self-aware pop.
Whether playfully ironic or painfully sincere, Poliça have nailed their sound with this album.
BY JESSE HAYWARD
Shulamith is out now through POD/Intertia Records