For the Minneapolis-based Poliça, putting out a second album was about proving to themselves that they “could still make music together,” says Channy Leaneagh, the band’s lead singer. Shulamith, out earlier this month, is concrete proof that they haven’t lost it.
While their first album, Give You the Ghost, was written in two weeks, Shulamith was created over the course of a year of touring. “The record is sort of a reflection on my life at this point in time,” says Leaneagh. “As a woman artist, I found myself—especially in the last couple of years—kind of losing myself.” Creating the record was, she explains, a way for her to recenter herself, while at the same time facing head-on the struggles that exist in the imbalanced connections between men and women, especially in the male-dominated music industry.
While Leaneagh is quick to declare, “I love men,” Shulamith is her semi-autobiographical interpretation of the difficult relationships women have with men, a theme further enforced by her decision to name the album in honor of Shulamith Firestone, the mother of radical feminism. Leaneagh’s brother gave her Firestone’s book Airless Spaces right after she finished recording Shulamith, and, for Leaneagh, titling the album after the author was a way to distinguish the time in her own life that she spent touring, writing, and recording the record, creating a sort of “place card,” as she describes.
“Tiff,” which features Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, was released this summer as the first single off the record. Vernon’s contribution to the song was more organic than methodic, and happened as the band recorded the album at his studio in their hometown. The song pulls further at the main theme of the record, tackling the relationships Leaneagh encountered in the last year and serving as a confrontational defense of her need to claim her ground. Served up in the form of a “conscientious diary entry,” the song concerns a woman dealing with “people around her who are offering conflicting advice and opinions,” says Leaneagh. “It’s [a plea] to let her be.”
While the lyrical import of Shulamith is comparable to that of Give You the Ghost, the new album represents a clear evolution in the beats and production. The synergy between Leaneagh’s vocals and the bass, played by Chris Bierden, and drums, by Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson, feels innate and inarguably real. “I feel all the band members have gotten more comfortable with Poliça and feeling like we’re all part of it and all have a voice,” says Leaneagh.
Still, Shulamith highlights Leaneagh’s voice more than ever before, melodically blending it with the backbone created by producer Ryan Olson. “In this band, the bones come before the lyrics. The beat comes first,” says Leaneagh. Olson’s beats for Shulamith flow organically, with the drums and bass taking on a deeper and clearer sound.
Leaneagh’s self-proclaimed favorite track, “Warrior Lord,” is the perfect example of how the band collaborates. After Olson played the beat for Leaneagh for the first time in the studio, she says, “I just sang those lyrics, and that happens so rarely. He plays me things that my body knows how to respond to,”—evidence that the relationships between men and women have also, at times, led to this band’s success. If only everything came as easily.
Shulamith is out now from Mom + Pop Music.
Yelena Perlin is an art director based in New York. She moonlights as a music fanatic.