POLIÇA’s ‘When We Stay Alive’ is a captivating mystery.


Memphis Industries

The cover of POLIÇA’s fifth studio album, ‘When We Stay Alive’.

Mason Montano, Music Editor

Looking for “creative release” after the dissolution of her marriage and creative partnership with American musician Alexei Casselle, American singer-songwriter and musician Channy Leaneagh formed the experimental pop band POLIÇA in early 2011 with American musician and producer Ryan Olson.

While initially conceived as a duo, the group now consists of Leaneagh as lead vocalist and on synths, Chris Bierden on bass, Drew Christopherson and Ben Ivascu on drums, and Olson as the in-studio producer; and since their live debut in September 2011, they’ve released four albums — Give You the Ghost (February 2012), Shulamith (October 2013), United Crushers (March 2016), and Music for the Long Emergency (February 2018) — before the arrival of their fifth studio album, When We Stay Alive, in late January.

Sporting otherworldly melodies and bizarre lyricism, When We Stay Alive is a trip-hop and experimental pop record with some acoustic elements that appear toward the end, and the lyrical content is abstract and difficult to decipher, making it one of the most intriguing, yet frustrating projects that I’ve heard in a while — and I mean that in the best way possible.

The lead single, “Driving”, opens the album on a dark and somewhat creepy note with lyrics that read like a poem from the terrifying catalog of American writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe, describing the taste of blood and flocks of crows hunting for meat, and the music video pushes the horror-esque vibe even further with a single shot of a fire consuming a record player in an unassuming room, creating an overwhelming sense of unease in the viewer.

Other tracks like “Fold Up” and “Little Threads” feature similar nuanced lyricism and unsettling production that obscures their message, leaving them open to the interpretation of the listener.

There are a handful of tracks, however, where the meaning is more easily understood, such as “Be Again” — a commentary on women’s rights and the right to choose, in which Leaneah states, unequivocally, that her body parts — eyes, lips, hands, etc. — belong to her and only her — and the second single, “Steady”, which is about the safety and stability of childhood before being left on one’s own to navigate adulthood.

These tracks are much more focused than the previously mentioned songs and establish a more coherent narrative behind the record, although what that narrative is, exactly, remains a mystery to me, which is completely fine, as POLIÇA has crafted a captivating body of work that continues to grow on me the more I listen to it, proving that music doesn’t necessarily need to be understood to be enjoyed. 

When We Stay Alive is available now across all online and streaming platforms.

Stream When We Stay Alive on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/7IBhWoqJNbJtTityLHPYaT?si=7M9IHyfJQYOmDNLOTJ79Uw 

Watch the music video for “Driving”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djlZf1J0wqI 

POLIÇA’s lead vocalist, Channy Leaneagh, as she appears in the press release photos for ‘When We Stay Alive’.