For Polica, Third Time’s a Charm
There are many promising and highly skilled acts that exist in the world of music, but only a small fraction of them ever truly find the portal that allows them to hit on all cylinders and fully deliver on that initial promise. Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Polica are a group that’s possessed several impressive qualities since emerging in 2012 with the debut full-length, Give You The Ghost. Yet between that and the sophomore follow-up, Shulamith, there was always a feeling that they just weren’t quite making the type of fully rounded LP that they seemed so capable of putting together. That’s not to say that each of those records were not littered with shiny and bombastic moments. Tracks like “Dark Star” and “Tiff” are immediate crowd-pleasing intros to the band’s sound, and the best example of where they really could go if they honed it all in for an entire album stretch. There was simply too much of an ideal union on display between the beat-driven production of Ryan Olson and Channy Leaneagh’s unique vocal rhythms for things not to come to high artistic fruition.
Surely they were going to find it all on the third effort, right? Three years removed from their last record, United Crushers arrives to stamp a loud and exclamatory YES as an answer to that question. From the opening moments onward, the third time is a glimmering charm for this hard working clan of Minnesotans. The tone of their music is considerably different this time around, which is noticeable before opener “Summer Please” even comes close to an end. Olson’s production is tighter and more hook-driven, leaving a much more pristine palette for Leaneaghy’s vocals to lay themselves out on, and that proves to be a very rewarding asset for the type of audience member who looks forward to being inside her thoughts. She has always been a most introspective and autobiographical songwriter, but the production style on the previous records often drowned out any clear recollection of her words, forcing the curious to search lyric booklets online to find the exact meaning of most of her songs. This is not a worry when listening to any of the piercing tracks on United Crushers. Her voice is at the forefront and is out in the open on full display.
Whether we’re listening to her worry about the world she’s bringing her children into, the unbearable liberty-overstepping of the American police force, or the agonizing moments of getting through fights with the one she loves, it’s finally all in front of us laid out to dissect with clarity. It’s the kind of Polica record I have been envisioning since they came into existence. Eight months ago I saw them perform at the Eaux Claires Music Festival. Leaneagh was seven months pregnant at the time, dancing emphatically in the blistering summer heat as they debuted new tracks. I undoubtedly heard some of the earliest live performances of specific United Crushers songs that evening, and it was obvious to me through the mannerisms of the entire band that they knew they were tapping into another artistic realm. Where the previous two records had specific tracks you could pick out from the lot as takeaways, this one stands together as a satisfying whole.