Friday, 15 November 2013

Album Review: Poliça: Shulamith

I confess I’ve got a bit bored of writing album reviews, at least I thought I had, but it really depends on the music. Some you just like them, but have very little to say, and others you just can get your teeth into like Goldfrapp’s ‘Tales of Us’ and now Poliça’s ‘Shulamith’, it does help if they are a bit concept-y or have some intense videos to throw in.

That, of course, depends on how you listen to music too, whether just as background noise, or something you get completely immersed in. There are some I would listen to with others (more fluffy nice pop re styled by Miss Selfridge:  Polly Scattergood) and some I like in solitude because they are either weird or just impossible to talk over…and there are always those that can do both the social backdrop and intense. Shulamith is one of those.

I love its intense moments but there is gentleness in it too. You could clutch your head screaming ‘oh god’ listening to it or chat to your mum and dad over a cup of tea with it playing. I've got friends that would just think it was a pleasant noise in the background, the type that don’t listen to music (How!) and others that would prick their ears and listen properly. It probably helps that Channy Leaneagh’s voice is lovely, really lovely, sort of reminds me of Tracey Thorn’s voice (Everything But The Girl, now writes very well, see my Bedsit Disco Queen review here). There is also an undercurrent of melancholy and tension that weaves through the tracks and I personally like that contrast in melody and uneasiness.

I’ve already talked about ‘Chain My Name’ here, it’s the upbeat opener and probably the surprisingly hooky one despite its darker lyrics as it drifts into moody tracks likening in my mind to Portishead at times in the first half of the album. Here’s the track ‘Smug’, Poliça's are a band with lots of cool live clips when you start searching.

I like to pick an odd reference sometimes; three of the tracks, ‘Smug’ and ‘Vegas’ and ‘Warrior Lord’ have a couple of surprising electronic sounds, (the kind that make you go ‘oh what was that?)  One reminds me of ‘Summertime’, yes that 90s anthem from DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, there’s that groove, oddly, and very slowed down (I checked, and you can’t get that fucking song out of your head for days so beware) and another Aphex Twin (much cooler of course) ‘Windowlicker’, this one more so with ‘Smug’ in particular.

‘Torre’ and ‘Trippin’ kind of keep that groove thing going and its something that normally I would find a bit torturous. In this blend of feminist ‘hear me roar’ about identity, about chaining a name and the more obvious lyrical references to marriage and uncomfortable ‘Tiff’ which glitch-cities out on you as you think a new window just opened behind the track, it works beautifully and sounds uniquely Poliça . Watching the video, she appears to be beating herself up, or is it another lost name, whatever it is, its dehumanising and violent and strangely compelling and makes sure it doesn’t descend into absolute 90s frivolity in its sound. ‘Shulamith’ after some googling is named after a dead feminist author, Shulamith Fireston after all.  Credit here for this info to Katherine St, Asaph on Pitchfork.

‘Very Cruel’ sounds like it might be channelling NIN for a moment and ‘Spilling Lines’ is another one of my absolute favourites. Listen below, again, those beats.

The final part of the LP (I’m doing this on vinyl at 3 tracks a side, giving you definite parts, as well as worthy exercise getting up and changing the heavy thing over) seems to me the finalisation of a relationship.  ‘Matty’ wasn’t singing to my soul at first but there’s a super gorgeous beepy interlude in the matrimony (in the lyrics, you start to hear a play on identity and ideals via ambiguous naming) of this tumultuous story. 

 ‘I Need $’ really shows off Channy’s voice, the instrumentals remind me a little of Niki &The Dove (they seem to be lost in space with La Roux and the torture of the second album) and this one floats the idea of independence with the words ‘I don’t need a man’.  ‘So Leave’ is probably my least favourite, which is odd as it smacks a little of The Knife in places, who I love, but that’s just for now, as this album just grows and grows. ‘So Leave’ ends the album on a lighter note, a quiet and captivating journey of liberation wrapped in brilliant music.

Favourite album of 2013 is going to be impossible.

Stream it here on The Guardian.

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