AutoTune has been given something of a bad name recently thanks to its overuse by the likes of Lil Wayne, Lil Jon and T-Pain. However, attempting to restore its reputation, Minneapolis outfit Polica utilise the piece of studio trickery as an instrument to enhance their sound rather than as a lazy method of disguising the voices of hip-hop’s most tone-deaf.
Indeed, having already performed in Ryan Olson’s soft-rock collective Gayngs, frontwoman Channy Leaneagh certainly isn’t using the tool to hide any vocal weaknesses. Her ethereal tones, part-Enya, part-Liz Fraser, may be pitch-shifted beyond all recognition and her tales of heartbreak (inspired by her divorce to former Roma di Luna bandmate Alexei Casselle) rendered indecipherable, but she’s still capable of exuding more genuine emotion in one song than most of her urban peers are in a whole career.
Accompanied by Olson’s ghostly slow-motion production and the clattering percussion of dual drummers Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson, Polica’s atmospheric leftfield R&B sound has been championed by everyone from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon (whose guitarist Mike Noyce is also an occasional member), who recently claimed Polica are “the best band I’ve ever heard,” and Jay-Z, who posted the black and white video to seductive lead single “Lay Your Cards Out” on his personal blog.
Released earlier this year, Polica’s debut album, Give You The Ghost, has seen them labelled as the Stateside version of The xx. But its 11 tracks are a little busier than the Mercury Music Prize winners’ typical moody lo-fi fare, venturing into dub-reggae (“I See My Mother”), woozy jazz-funk (“Dark Star”), and prog-rock (“Violent Games”), whilst also displaying a fondness for woozy electronica that means the record is just a little too disorientating to be grouped into the same chillout sub-genre.
However, the band’s well-received slot at the SXSW Festival and high-profile appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon suggests that their enigmatic off-kilter sound may soon crossover in a similar manner.