When Polica’s debut Give you the Ghost dropped in February, it felt tough to criticize. It was pretty solid synth-heavy R&B produced by Ryan Olson, who’d recently linked up with Polica vocalist Channy Leaneagh as part of the soft rock group Gayngs. It was also lacking something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Unlike Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon (also a member of Gayngs) who called them “the best band I’ve ever heard” in a Rolling Stone interview, I wasn’t totally blown away. However, I’d seen Leaneagh perform a breathtaking cover of Sade’s “By Your Side” with Gayngs last year, and that was enough to convince me to hit their sold out show at The Rock Shop last night.
The soft and diminutive Leaneagh appeared in front of two drum kits in what looked like a second-hand white homecoming dress over a black lace bodysuit. When she belted out the opening lines of “Amongster” with the hurricane force help of two drummers, it was pretty clear why this show was sold out. As one of any number of kids making psychedelic-tinged R&B, there’s a lot of potential for Leaneagh to come off as gimmicky, but her soul-bearing delivery prevents this from happening. There’s no kitsch, really, just a tiny woman with an incredible voice, who seems refreshingly unwilling to hold back. There’s a huge emotional weight that doesn’t quite come across on the album, but it’s strong live. Between songs, Leaneagh admitted that she and Olson were so excited about the project, that the album ended up being hastily thrown together—but based on the three new tracks, a more focused sophomore album is probably lurking somewhere in the pipeline.