These days, vocal heavy-hitters dominate the top of the pop charts. This is particularly true of the past two years, where Adele, Beyoncé, and even Lady Gaga established that the way to make sellable singles was to sing big. POLIÇA’s 2011 electro-pop release, entitled Give You the Ghost is a bit different. The band’s lead Channy Leanagh sings strongly and soulfully. But, unlike many cases of a strong vocal frontwoman, Give You the Ghost relegates her to showcase the other facets of POLIÇA’s interesting sound.
The band’s unique format makes for an unique sonic profile: two drummers, an emphasis on bass, and Leanagh’s isolating yet soulful voice. Many of the songs bare an R&B influence that falls lock-step with musical trends (See: SBTRKT’s SBTRKT of 2011 or Jessie Ware’s Devotion of 2012). Flamboyant drums, however, inject a rock-inspired texture. On “Form,” listeners pick up on the significance of instrumentation to the release overall, to a point where many listeners may see the lead vocalist as the least important aspect of the band’s sound.
In the case of “The Maker,” on which Leanagh’s vocals threaten a coup for a minute and a half, the band’s instrumentation takes eventually takes control. Towards the end, however, the drum and guitar legion sounds self-conscious in its assertion of authority. The drums pound incessantly as stop-and-go production effects jostle the listener towards the song’s eventual smooth finish. It’s a frivolous detail in the context of an otherwise good song.
Of the tracks, “Lay Your Cards Out” seems to be the most successful. Leanagh’s vocals meld effortlessly with the instrumentation. The song isn’t about the singer but about the band overall. The vocals and the instrumentation almost wrap around each other. As Leanagh romantically commands, “In these little moments/lay your cards out.” POLIÇA does just that: their marriage of R&B and rock is consummated to create a cool, isolating electro-pop sound.
Give You the Ghost is listenable and generally well-produced. But the word enjoyable isn’t the next logical association, and not because the album is bad. Perhaps the term is intriguing. The songs have an ability to draw you in; before you know it, you’ve listened to the whole album. The album’s groove is a double-edge sword. It causes some of the tracks to blend into an indistinguishable purée of smooth electro-pop effects. Overall, however, POLIÇA shows the ability to produce the distant yet inviting sound that imbues their release with a successful, off-the-cuff soulfulness.