A sound that was formed in the flux between injury and recovery; When We Stay Alive, the fourth album from Minneapolis band POLIÇA, proves that mental and physical wounds can be galvanized in to beguiling soundscapes that acknowledge the impact of personal trauma.
When vocalist Channy Leaneagh fell off her roof while clearing ice in early 2018, she broke her L1 vertebrae and severely damaged her spine, leaving her in a brace with limited mobility for months. Half the tracks on When We Stay Alive were written prior to Leaneagh’s accident, and half were crafted during, and after her recovery. Together, bandmates Ryan Olson, Drew Christopherson, Ben Ivascu, Chris Bierden and engineer Alex Proctor have crafted a cohesive album that allows space for optimism, and development in self-autonomy.
Perhaps a reflection of Leaneagh’s physical restrictions whilst making the record, many tracks on When We Stay Alive have a searching, restless feel to them. Opener ‘Driving’ has an effortless kinetic energy, whilst the shifting percussion on the buoyant ‘TATA’ reflects a communal frustration against wider forces damaging the environment. The various, overlapping synth textures on ‘Fold Up’ explore feelings of isolation – “‘cos I’m lonely in my head / Oh it’s only in my bed” – whilst the smoldering ‘Little Threads’ quietly seethes with a mixture of desire and sadness.
“I don’t want to deny something happened – this is not about repression – it’s about taking the power back from the past, holding the power in the present, and creating a new story for myself,” explains Leaneagh. Her meditative nature shines through on ‘Feel Life’, as her pensive vocals lilt over a cautious soundscape, gently awakening her senses. The brooding ‘Be Again’ builds upon this, with its dense beats and echoing synths.
Familial and romantic relationships are explored on ‘Steady’ and ‘Forget Me Now’. On the first, Leaneagh takes a moment to “see herself” without the support of her wider family. One the second, she dissects what makes two people bring out the worst in each other. Colourful synths permeate penultimate track ‘Blood Moon’, in contrast with final track ‘Sea Without Blue’. The painful revelations in the lyrics – “Don’t say you’ll make it up to me / you never do” – are made easier to accept by the ebb and flow of sounds, and the thoughtful spaces between verses and choruses.
In Leaneagh’s search for for self sustenance, POLIÇA have created a diligent body of work on When We Stay Alive. The music and the lyrics encourage listeners not just to “Stay Alive”, but to thrive in the face of adversity. And that’s exactly what the Minneapolis band have done here.
Order your copy of POLIÇA’s new album here. (Released via Memphis Industries)
Photo Credit: Zoe Prinds-Flash