February 7th | Thekla
At this stage, Poliça feel like hardened veterans of the indie music scene. Since they first caught people’s ears with their fantastic debut, Give You The Ghost, they’ve continued to steadily release music ever since, carving out their own brand of moody synth-pop. It’s a sound they’ve more than mastered at this stage and their latest release, When We Stay Alive is one that feels less like a reinvention and more a reassertion of what they’re known for.
Thekla tonight is the perfect accompaniment to the band’s music. The mood is darkly inviting, the room lit with a blue wash while flickers of white light cycle over it like LED rain. Following a brief but impressive set from Warm Digits, Poliça emerge from the shadows of the venue’s stage entrance and dive into their first song.
‘Lime Habit’ makes for a great opener choice, the song’s propulsive drumbeat acting as the perfect CTA for the crowd. Synths zigzag colourfully over the drums, while Channy Leaneagh’s vocals float around the room like a lost wisp of smoke. Bassist Chris Bierden quickly proves himself to be Poliça’s secret weapon, layering a groovy bassline over the song’s second half. Throughout the night, his bass playing frequently shines as the glue that holds the group’s sound together.
After a string of older songs, the band dive into some from their new album, When We Stay Alive. The moody and ominous ‘Driving’ remains one of the album’s highlights – its heavy bass rumbling the venue – and melancholy banger ‘Sea Without Blue’ similarly impresses. The group’s new songs manage to effortlessly slot in alongside the older ones, operating in the same darkly electronic space.
However, this ends up being one of the main drawbacks of Poliça’s show: about halfway through, the songs all tend to blend into each other a bit. The band have a well-defined sound that they rarely venture out of, which leads to the night suffering from a slight lack of variety. Because of this, the group’s odder experiments, such as the playful, vocoder-laden ‘Trash In Bed’ stand out all the more. The group also feel slightly distant throughout the show as well, never really interacting with the audience, which gives some sense that they’re simply going through the motions.
There are still plenty of highlights to take away from the performance, though, and the band’s more anthemic numbers really do soar. ‘Forget Me Now’ from When We Stay Alive is a real fist-pumper with its heavy chorus, while older cut ‘Tiff’ does a great job of setting the crowd alight. Then there’s ‘Lay Out Your Cards’ – arguably Poliça’s breakout track – which still sounds as good as ever. It proves to be the perfect way for the group to draw their set to a close.
As a live band, Poliça are still very much able to impress, and during their set they managed to deliver a deft balance of newer cuts and older fan favourites. Still, there was the sense that a certain spark was missing, even if they did manage to hit all the notes fans expected.
See the video for ‘Steady’ here: