Spelling out nu-Elektro: Chvrches and Poliça
The Bones Of What You Believe Shulamith
Poliça open their album with an elegant yet bleary ballad requesting you leave them alone. The song is beautiful, if a bit heavy on the melancholy, turning the lights down low, but not in a romantic way. That’s the idea. Chvrches’ lead single, meanwhile, is a dance-pop romp of whizzing, wobbling synth hooks under lyrics of guns and knives; the cherubic vocalist soars with a honeyed-toned delicacy, yet her words are taunting you to take a swing at her. Yeah, this is softy music for the angsty bunch; artfully arranged synth ballads for those who’ve had-enough.
Autumn’s brisk temperature drop is finely reflected in the colder (and jagged) edge of these two breakout stars from the contemporary class of electronica-pop. Both bands (Poliça is a Minnesota-based quintet while the trio of Chvrches hail from Glasgow) effectively defy two lingering stigmas of synth-centric, female-fronted “electro-pop.” Demure be damned. Neither album comes off precious or playful. There’s some moody lagoons to wade through, surely. But, Poliça’s adds welcomed flourish to remedy the more tranquilized traipsing of comparable outfits The XX. Chvrches aren’t moody so much as angsty, but they’ve got a knack for looping curlicue pop hooks with their keyboards. Poliça harkens back to the more heavily atmospheric tropes of “trip-hop” bands like Portishead or Massive Attack, complimenting the strikingly soulful vocals of Channy Leaneagh. Chvrches are the cannonball into the cold pool to follow Poliça’s soothing jacuzzi-simmer, the rhythms are insistently danceable (and unabashedly deploying fake, staticy hand-clap synth-effects at one point) while the charismatic Lauren Mayberry gracefully lunges at you, coaxing you out onto the dancefloor at the verses but swiftly throttling your collar at the next chorus.
Electro-pop’s propped some disposable, forgettable albums of late, but with these dynamic lyricists (and their instrumentalists defiantly nonchalant towards whether any element “sounds too retro” or not), it sounds, at least, that they’re ready to up a fight.