The Top 50 Albums Of 2012: #29 Polica
Polica’s ‘Give You The Ghost’ was listed at #29 in The Fly’s Top 50 Albums of 2012. Read the list here.
It’s morning – just before 10am – on one of the last real days of summer in New York. Tourists are already flocking to the Rockefeller Centre, peering inquisitively into the gilded storefronts that line the promenade leading to the GE Building, Manhattan’s 11th highest. As flags ofthe United Nations wave calmly in the backdrop, hundreds of people soak up the sun and take pictures of the towering landmark in front of them, all shuffling past Channy Leaneagh as she benches. There’s an unexpected warmth to the Poliça singer – not because she has a reputation for being guarded and distant, but, because of her cold, disembodied vocals on her band’s debut album, the aptly titled ‘Give You The Ghost’.
There’s something deeply disturbed and disturbing about her distorted, eerily Auto-Tuned vocals, something sinister, haunted and hair-raising. The woman behind the voice is anything but, however.
“It’s always interesting to analyse yourself,” she smiles when confronted with this discrepancy. “I think [that Auto-Tune] gives you a certain feeling like you’re wearing a mask. At least the people that I’ve seen record with it in the studio – it almost brings out a part of them that’s a little bit more honest and more raw, because they have this on. And so they start saying stuff they wouldn’t otherwise say and singing in ways they wouldn’t otherwise sing. It almost gives us freedom – in this circle, anyway. I can’t speak for the pop world, but it’s almost like it gives you this sense that you can be somebody else. I think I just kind of wanted to escape from myself at the start.”
Leaneagh, her music and her ‘circle’ (which includes Bon Iver; she’s opening for them tonight and Justin Vernon has previously called Poliça “the best band I’ve ever heard”) couldn’t be any further removed from anodyne, commercial and mass-marketed pop world. Rather, she uses it as an instrument, experimenting with the process to achieve the distinctive, otherworldly sounds that float so tenderly and tentatively above the beats laid down by the other main creative force of her Minneapolis-based band– Ryan Olson. The pair had previously worked together when Leaneagh contributed to another of Olson’s projects, Gayngs, but it wasn’t until they began writing as Poliça, little over a year ago, that their creative relationship truly gelled and blossomed.
“We didn’t know each other very well,” explains Leaneagh, “but then as I started touring with that band we got to be good friends. I was reluctant to work with him on Gayngs, but then once I got to know him, I was pretty sure he was the person who was supposed to make this record. I tend to be very guarded – not necessarily shy – but once I got to know him and started working with him I was fine. He invited me out of the folk scene into this world that he was in, that was kind of electronic music and he also took me to my first strip club. So, musically and also experience-wise, he brought me to a lot of dark places at the start of it.”
Those dark places were an appropriate mirror for Leaneagh’s life at the time. Her marriage to folk musician Alexei Caselle – with whom she had formed roots act Roma Di Luna – was falling apart. Naturally, her songwriting began to reflect the emotions and experiences she was encountering at the time, resulting in a darkly powerful record that, despite the distance created by Leaneagh’s manipulated vocals and the ominous beats laid down by Olson, is an incredibly personal – and, importantly, leftfield – record of an incredibly personal time. Of course, it didn’t stay personal – or leftfield – for long; the endorsement of Vernon and, later, the approval of Jay-Z via his Life+Times blog, has meant that an incredible amount of attention has shifted in Poliça’s direction. It’s been a very short ride to this point so far, and the journey’s only just begun. Already, she and Olson have recorded 18 potential songs for the next album – “They’re not all good,” she chuckles – but that’s just the nature of this band.
“One thing I really appreciate about working with Ryan,” she says, “is that we share this urgency to make music. I think it comes from a different place. I used to have this feeling that I just don’t know how much time I have. Not necessarily in life, but just like I want to keep on. I have things to say. I’m sure some day that’ll go away but I just want to keep on working. I’m sure there’ll be some time when I want to relax, but I don’t have that desire yet.”
Click here for numbers 28-26 in our Top 50 Albums of 2012.