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The songs on Poliça's acclaimed debut Give You the Ghost flowed into each other in a blur of feelings and sounds that evoked the Cocteau Twins working with a cutting-edge 2010s R&B producer. Wisely, Channy Leaneagh, Ryan Olson, and the rest of the band don't try to recapture that stream-of-consciousness beauty on Shulamith. Instead, on this more ambitious and effortful follow-up, they bring order to those chaotic emotions, most notably in the frosty slickness of Olson's production and Leaneagh's more assured singing. On Shulamith, she downplays the special effects, giving these songs a clarity that makes them a fitting counterpoint to the dreamlike intensity of Poliça's debut. If Give You the Ghost was a tear-blurred meditation on loss, then this album embodies the sharper edges of independence; it's not until the breathy album closer "So Leave" that Leaneagh truly lets her guard down. Despite that tough shell -- or perhaps because of it -- Poliça imbues much of Shulamith with a darkly seductive vibe that peaks on "Very Cruel" and "Torre," where Leaneagh purrs tauntingly, "You can't have me anymore." In keeping with the album's more streamlined sound, the band's songwriting is also more straightforward; tracks like "Chain My Name," "Trippin'," and "I Need $" have honest-to-goodness hooks and choruses. This structured, measured approach means that Shulamith lacks some of the highs and lows that made Give You the Ghost so thrillingly intuitive, and at times the album feels almost too consistent for its own good. Not that there aren't standout moments: the formidable dual drum attack on "Vegas" and "Matty"'s dramatic pauses show Poliça still have a flair for drama. Even if Shulamith isn't as strikingly original as Give You the Ghost, the growth in its songwriting and emotional complexity suggests Poliça are in it for the long haul. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi