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Thursday, April 17, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 45.0° F  Overcast
The Daily

TOUR STOP

Poliça glaze R&B grooves with icy vocals and synths
Jack Frost, pop icon?

Giving the Knife a run for their money.
Credit: Michael Palmer
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Though '80s-inspired synthpop is at the core of Poliça's sound, the Minneapolis group push the genre into modern territory with haunting vocals that give the Knife and La Roux a run for their money. Songs from the band's debut, Give You the Ghost, were a hit at Madison's FRZN Fest in 2012, and their sophomore album, Shulamith, earned raves from NPR this year, before it even reached Spotify.

Here's a taste of four spooky tunes from the new LP, which hit U.S. record stores near Halloween, then raced up the charts in the U.K.


"Tiff" featuring Justin Vernon
Vernon, Bon Iver's bearded frontman, grew up in Wisconsin but lived close enough to the Twin Cities that he crossed paths with Poliça's vocalist, Channy Leaneagh, who used to belong to a folk-rock band there. In this song, Leaneagh's frosty soprano takes center stage while Vernon's falsetto provides subtle harmonies. Vernon's vocal resemblance to Phil Collins starts to show when he and Leaneagh sing lyrics in a round near the three-minute mark. Surprisingly, it works, giving the tune an ominous vibe like that of Collins' "In the Air Tonight."

"Chain My Name"
This track shows off the melodic prowess of Poliça's production wizard, Ryan Olson. He frontloads the tune with bouncy synth loops until they reach earworm status, then busts out atmospheric chords that bear a strong resemblance to those in Cut Copy's "Lights & Music." Leaneagh's lyrics, like "Hold back my hair" and "Don't make it easier on me," examine power struggles through S&M imagery.

"I Need $"
Though this song's title looks like a run-of-the-mill text message, its syncopation and rhythmic repetition of "I don't need a man" make it pleasantly unusual. Leaneagh compares lovers to money, noting that both can create painful obligations such as debt.

"Vegas"
Poliça show off their '90s influences in this track, which puts Leaneagh in the shoes of Portishead's knockout vocalist, Beth Gibbons. This isn't trip-hop in the traditional sense, but it coats R&B-style croons in a layer of ice and uses slow, sultry beats to make you melt at just the right moments.

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