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Music for the Long Emergency

You have to admire Poliça’s willingness to break their own mold. In 2016, with two albums’ worth of hazy breakup songs under their belts, the Minneapolis five-piece abruptly pivoted into political consciousness and traded some of their rock instincts in for a smattering of pop motifs. The resulting album, United Crushers, faltered at times, but it was a good-faith effort to engage with the national mood. Poliça read the room and responded accordingly.

Poliça’s latest album is the product of another reinvention. In merging with s t a r g a z e, the Berlin-based orchestral collective led by conductor André de Ridder, they’ve more than doubled their lineup. With all those extra bodies in the room, the deep, dark chasms that fractured their earlier work, separating singer Channy Leaneagh’s voice from producer Ryan Olson’s rumbling synths, begin to fill in. The resulting sound feels new, to be sure, but mostly in the sense that it’s not fully ripe. Though challenging and, in its best moments, quite exciting, Music for the Long Emergency ultimately resembles a first draft. Its most compelling ideas are knotted up with its worst, and the whole thing could use a thorough edit.

Like its predecessor, Music for the Long Emergency postures as a political album. Its title nods to the turmoil of the Trump era, and its lead single, “How Is This Happening,” is a ten-minute dirge that Leaneagh wrote the day after the 2016 election. On the album, it’s sequenced towards the end, and it delivers some vivid moments, largely courtesy of s t a r g a z e’s string section. They brood, first hovering on single, sustained notes as if unsure how to proceed, then sinking into snarling cluster chords as panic sets in. Leaneagh, meanwhile, repeats the titular question that

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