We hope you’ve followed along in our Artist Discovery Series, learning more about your favorite artists or discovering the sounds of new ones along the way. For our final installment, this week’s featured blogger — Brooklyn Vegan’s Andrew Sacher — outlines the uniquely hybrid indie-rock/R&B path taken by popular up-and-comer, Polica.
One byproduct of Bon Iver reaching high levels of success is that we found out about the music made by all of his friends — and he’s got a lot of them. Many of those friends and collaborators came together for the supergroup Gayngs back in 2010, and among the members was Channy Leaneagh (formerly of Roma Di Luna) and Ryan Olson (also of Marijuana Deathsquads). Since that project, Channy and Ryan have again joined forces, this time to form the band Polica (pronounced poh-lisa). Ryan’s not actually a member, but he produced and co-wrote Polica’s debut album, Give You the Ghost, with Channy, who sings the songs and leads the band at their live shows.
On the surface, Give You the Ghost is another example of the crossed paths that are continuously taken by indie rock and R&B, with its heavily auto-tuned vocals, smooth bass-heavy rhythms, and airy synths. But closer listens show that this is no ordinary R&B crossover album. The auto-tune is used not as a vice, but to add new dimensions to Channy’s voice, similar to the route taken by Bon Iver on “Woods.” Two of the tracks actually feature Bon Iver’s Mike Noyce on backing vocals — “Lay Your Cards Out” and “Wandering Star” — and though the Bon Iver relation is what led us to Polica, the freshness of sound and the playability of the songs is what kept us here.
It’s one of the albums that if you walk away from it, you only find yourself singing the whole thing in your head for the rest of the day. And with melodies this strong, who could blame you? Tracks like “Amongster,” “I See My Mother,” and “Dark Star,” touch on the kind of feelings that make radio R&B so compelling, but eschew the excess of the radio’s ten-gallon synths and the emptiness of its lyrics. It’s also not fair to just compare Polica to contemporary R&B. Their melting pot of a sound also draws from experimental rock, synth pop, and even the storytelling aspect of the folk rock of Channy’s former Roma Di Luna project.
While some synth-heavy R&B projects tend to become a bit of a bore in a live setting, Polica does nothing of the sort. I’ve seen them live in NYC a couple times and they never fail to impress. Channy dances effortlessly around the stage as her vocals soar over the mix of two interlocking drummers and a noodly funk bassist. Both drummers sound skilled in jazz and the avant-garde, and they balance each other out throughout songs, often coming together to create thunderous rumbles.
It’s a far more complex band to watch than the deceptively simple album makes you think. It’s no wonder the band have been steadily moving up in the world since the release of their album, so we recommend making it out for their early 1:30 set at the Sony Stage on Sunday at Lollapalooza before they get a much bigger spot next time around.
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