Futuristic genre-defying music from the American outfit
Give You The Ghost, the debut record from Minneapolis band Poliça, has grown on me in a way unlike any other album I’ve heard. It is a complete revelation, a record so unbelievably unique that it stands, much like album of the year contenders Alt-J, genre-less.
Poliça emerged from GAYNGS, a musical collective that featured Bon Iver members Justin Vernon and Mike Noyce. Singer Channy Leaneagh and producer Ryan Olsen, both GAYNGS members, teamed up to exploit Leaneagh’s voice and experiment. This evolved into a fourpiece of vocals, bass and, one of the coolest things ever, TWO DRUMMERS. Sick.
The first thing that strikes about the music of Poliça, is how ethereal it sounds. Synths and bass murmur around, never settling, making the music constantly on edge. Leaneagh’s vocals soar above, only emerging through very heavy treating, with auto-tune and layers of delay and reverb. If the mention of auto-tune turns you off, then you wouldn’t be alone. If someone had told me that before I heard them, I’d have done the same. But Poliça need to get credit for making it the only use of auto-tune I have ever liked, it is very, very clear that it is an artistic move and not a compensation.
The sound that all these elements combine to produce the most futuristic album I have ever heard. It moves beyond any synth/electronic music but it’s far more than its acoustic elements. The two drummers merge beautifully at times rising to a cacophony in songs like opener ‘Amongster’ and at others, providing a studied, understated drive such as ‘Happy Be Fine’. The bass goes from punkish aggression, in ‘Violent Games’, to a cracking funk in ‘Dark Star’ and ‘Form’. Vocally, the album is spot on and the varied synths always complement the song and never override the pure soul of the songs.
While all of this is going on, they’ve managed to produce some of the best lyrics I’ve heard this year. You wouldn’t know on first listen, however, as all the effects combined with Leaneagh’s style make it near impossible to understand what she’s singing. luckily, buying the CD gets you a handy lyric book and the mastery can be revealed.
At its heart, Give You The Ghost is that classic tradition of music, the break-up album. But this break-up was a divorce, shadowed by the break-up of Leaneagh’s main band, Roma di Luna, and leaving a young child in the middle. The lyrics reflect on this from all angles, and in such a unique, and uniquely feminine, way. It ranges from calm and reflective ‘I need some time, to think about my life, without you’, passionate defence ‘Everyone’s asking where’s your child in this plan? / Why you gonna ask me if I’d cut off my own hand’, defiance ‘Ain’t a man in this world who can pull me down from my dark star / I will remain there it’s done me good so far’, repentence ‘It’s a brand new day and I’m sorry / I will never take her away… I wish you would kick me in my face / I’m the victim I did it’, and by closing track ‘Leading to Death’ Leaneagh merges righteous anger with the brutal honesty of the album: ‘In the days, In the nights, In the hours leading up to your death, I won’t weep… I dream of you oh my strangler, I dream of you.’
With these lyrics, only ever half-heard among the phenomenal music its soars over, the album draws you in, its grip tightening on every next listen. When I bought this album, it was complete fluke, I went in to HMV looking for FOE’s ‘Bad Dream Hotline’, but settled for this album when I couldn’t find the FOE. After a few weeks I was stunned to see how much I’d listened to it, far more than I thought I had. On every listen the album holds something, it retains a mystery that prompts you to go back and listen again, see if the song affects you again. Whether it achieves this with its camouflaged lyrical genius, or with its futuristic musical experimenting or with both, I cannot say. All I can say is that this is an album that challenges and enthrals in equal measure, it’s the very definition of a grower, and the first true challenge to Alt-J’s position at the top of the album of 2012 charts.