American synth indie band Polica are releasing their third long play album, United Crushers on March 4th. The album condenses their prior signature synth heavy stylings into a resulting tighter sonic groove. That sound is then juxtaposed to a more vulnerable accessibility. There is also a more political bend to the themes addressed by band on this release.
Polica was founded in 2011 by Channy Leaneagh and Ryan Olson in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Prior to Polica’s incarnation Channy was half of the folk duo Roma Di Luna with her then spouse. Looking for a creative release after her divorce she connected with Olson’s Gayngs project as a backup singer. The idea of forming Polica took off from that collaboration. They chose the name Polica initially thinking it was the Polish word for policy and then simply liked the name. They also felt the word referenced an unwritten code that guides the members of the band as they work together and defines their work ethic. Polica’s core creative nucleus is Channy on vocals and Olsen on production/keyboards with Chris Bierden on bass and vocals, Drew Christopherson on drums and Ben Ivascu also on drums rounding out the sound. United Crushers was collectively written by the band in Minneapolis and recorded at Sonic Ranch studios in El Paso, Texas. The emphasis throughout the recording process was the band playing together in the same room as they recorded and catching the resulting energy on the album.
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United Crushers features complex arrangements and bigger production than on their two earlier releases. The themes are both political and personal and look to examine; social injustice, self doubt, isolation, urban decline, gentrification, and overcoming music industry machinations. This all happens over an underlying search for true lasting love. Polica have taken on a significantly difficult task on the album, attempting to cogently delivering their viewpoint on these topics. Unfortunately they do not always succeed in expressing their vision with clarity.
The kick off song Summer Please is a cool visceral techno track with trippy oscillating beats accomplishing a sort of twist into a dance selection toward the end. It is a likable track and channels bands such as Actress and Ultraista. Lime Habit again takes its sonic influences from Massive Attack and Portishead to create a solid techno dance beat song that is both hypnotic and engaging. Someway is energy filled and Channy’s voice is showcased on the track. There is a nice interplay of tension between the minimalness and the techno instrumentation on the track. It reminded me a lot of the offerings off of Ghost Poet’s “Shedding Skin” album. The theme of the song is attempting to get yourself to a better place in someway not yet made clear.
The first pre release single off United Crushers, Wedding is loaded with techno goodness and has a healthy dose of digital swagger. It is engaging and gritty and is a dramatic song. I wish there had been more of its like on the record. Melting Block is a mesmerizing dance track utilizing a stop/start effect to make for an arresting song. It proffers the idea of being able to start all over again melting your current self down and creating another manifestation.
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The first half of the album is impressive and the songs capture the listener with both solid instrumentals and thought provoking contemplation. Unfortunately the second half of the album quickly runs out of steam. The main problem is that the songs seem a little too much alike. Additionally in the production the vocals seem to be overwhelmed. The balance between instrumentation and vocals is off which submerges the lyric. The song Top Coat is probably the best of the next 6 songs with its power and energy creating a frosty atmospheric vastness as the wavering synths explode. As the song goes on a heavy wonky guitar takes over. Lately and Fish also have their moments of sonic greatness during each song, but are uneven and fail to catch fire. Where the album really bogs down is with the songs Berlin, Baby Sucks and Kind. There is a sameness that gets monotonous. It is not that any of the three songs are awful; instead it is that there is little demarcation between them. “Baby Sucks” bleeds into “Kind” and goes on way too long becoming enervating. There are important themes in these songs but somehow the lyrics vanish in the midst of the orchestration. There is a feel that a continuous play button got pushed during Berlin and was forgotten about, there is little variation which is fine for the dance floor but gets a little wearing once out of the club.
The final song Lose You is a departure from the prior songs in that it stands out with clear lyrics. It is a break up song that scratches an itch. It is beautiful and ethereal as Channy sings the lyric “What’s to lose, what’s to lose, just you.” She weighs the end result of a break up, and mourns her losses. Shame the album’s back half didn’t have a few more songs like this one.
Polica certainly has talent and Channy is an excellent singer who reminds me of Bjork and Sinead. I think more clarity in the production would have helped and possibly a” less is more approach” to the number of songs. It could also be that the song list needed a reordering that would have broken the monotony on the second half of the album. There is nothing terribly wrong with the release and the dance infused orchestration is stellar. However I think the band needs to figure out if their going to be a Dance/Techno band where repetition is expected if not required or a more introspective vocal centered entity with the accompaniment in compliment. Better luck next time.