Album Review: Polica – Give You the Ghost




In my review of Polica’s performance at the 7th Street Entry a few weeks ago, I speculated that the Minneapolis mini-group would be the next Gayngs. After listening to Polica’s debut, Give You the Ghost, which dropped almost two months before its scheduled Valentine’s Day release date, I’ve changed my mind. Gayngs mastermind Ryan Olson co-produced Give You the Ghost with Spoon’s Jim Eno, who’s widely acknowledged as one of the best drummers today, and the resulting post-prog-rock percussion and mellifluous bass, along with vocalist Channy Leneagh’s Auto-Tuned swan songs, re-shape the intersection of rhythm and blues. In comparison, “The Gaudy Side of Town” just made 60 bpm cool again.

Polica succeeds because they cover a lot of ground with few moving parts. On “Form”, the bass marches to a salsa rhythm that intensifies Leneagh’s pleas for forgiveness: “It’s a brand-new day and I’m sorry/I will never take her away.” A staccato version of that bass line strengthens the backbone of “I See My Mother”, haunted by ghostly saxophone peals. Similar instrumental sleights of hand, in the form of lush violins, soften sharp snare rim hits that punctuate Leneagh’s desolate echoes like gunshots on “Wandering Star”. With backing vocals courtesy of Bon Iver’s Mike Noyce, it’s arguably the most affecting track on the album.

Even though the album addresses death—especially the hair-raising “The Maker”, in which Leneagh directly addresses “a boss who draws the gun”—not all of Give You the Ghost makes you want to “swallow whiskey” and “take to powder.” In fact, some of it is rather worldly: “Violent Games” incorporates Algerian pop rai, revving angry synths like Rachid Taha’s “Barra Barra” before Polica’s dueling drums intensify to machine gun-like levels. Album closer “Leading to Death” opens with post-bop synthesizers and a resonant bass line with elements of funk pioneers like Herbie Hancock. And “Lay Your Cards Out” undulates on a Gayngs-like beat and buzzing bedroom synths behind Leneagh’s challenge, “Get your cards out, I am waiting.” So are the rest of us, eagerly awaiting more surprises from this rising star.

Essential Tracks: “Wandering Star”, “I See My Mother”, and “Lay Your Cards Out”

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