I’m Sorry, What?
Hailing from rootsy folk outfit Romi Di Luna, vocalist Channy Leaneagh has teamed with producer Ryan Olson to form the disco syndicate POLIÇA (“po-lee-sa”). They’re kind of an angelic, dance floor-ready cyborg—pulsing with metronomic drums, dinging bloops and cooing like some lithium-ion pixie. Ostensibly, the band’s debut, Give You The Ghost, is an effort of lovely and tasteful craftwork. Ostensibly.
Twin drummers Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson weave a quickening mesh of beats, bassist Chris Bierdan’s lines bump and shimmer, and synthman Olson’s sounds are in every way on-point and evocative. Even Channy’s sincere vocals, whose gossamer tone and delivery is vital to the group’s sound, are at turns pleading and sexy. There’s just one nagging, illusion-breaking problem: Track by track, you can’t understand what this woman is saying.
There are times, however, when the singer’s loose and languid approach feels just right. “Lay Your Cards” and “Leading To Death” are the album’s unmitigated successes. The former is a whopper of a single, and a distillate of the band at their best. Its measured downbeat, Tron violin swells, and Channy’s sensual digitized croons whir and cohere perfectly, blooming into some stellar and libidinous dream. “In these little moments, get your cards out,” purs our divine vixen, “I am waiting”—coming off like a metallic, occidental Sade. “Leading,” too, gets it just right, with its turbo funk bassline and chirping detuned noises. Channy’s high romantic cries evoke a cyber Sinead O’Conner, and the synths are so delightfully chunky and retro as to recall John Carpenter’s halcyon days of “one man and a Casio.”
The sad truth is despite POLIÇA’s highly polished and often riveting sound, their spell is routinely broken by the vocalist’s inscrutably inarticulate performance. Making matters worse, her vocals are often caked with thick layers of delay. What was intended to heighten the cosmic sex appeal only deepens the locutional nightmare. Tracks like “Violent Games” and “Fist Teeth Money” prove especially frustrating, with Channy regrettably invoking a kind of Dido on Ambien. “When the day is done/I’ll lend me down,” she possibly sings on “Wandering Star,” another one lost to the phonetic twilight zone. “I soon know you by lonely day,” she assures us. Glad to hear it! The confusion is broadened with each line, and any honest-to-goodness chance at figuring it out seems beyond retrieve.
Channy, repeat after me: “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.” Professor Henry Higgins does wonderful work, I hear. If you’re interested, I can give you his number.