On Poliça’s second offering Shulamith, electro duo Ryan Olson and Channy Leaneagh, also of the soft rock collective Gayngs, swerve into darker territory, a move telegraphed ominously the blood-soaked cover art. Leaneagh still delivers nimble vocals, but stripped of the airy reverb of the band’s debut Give You the Ghost, she sounds less pixie-like, and more like an after-hours R&B goddess. The switch-up works; trading ambience for grit, Poliça delivers some of their most satisfying songs to date.
The frenetic opening track “Chain My Name” lays the band’s anguish bare: “So are we made just to fight/ All our lives, end it all on the bottom line,” Leaneagh moans against the spangly backdrop of drum machines and synth squeaks. Gayngs/Bon Iver pal Justin Vernon drops by for album centerpiece “Tiff,” and the duet feels dangerous, each singer bringing chilling verisimilitude to lines like “It’s a pact like a lion’s den/ You come out, but you can’t come in.” The album has an air of haunted sensuality, but the actual sex is missing, replaced by a thousand-yard stare and a sense of encroaching futility. The white noise and driving bass of “Very Cruel” threatens to consume Leaneagh completely, but she fights gamely, never coming undone. Shulamith raises the stakes, and succeeds in every way.