Anticipation can be a kiss of death when it comes to music. The longer you have to wait, the greater the chance you’ll be disappointed. I’d argue that 80% of Guns ‘n Roses fans felt let down by ‘Chinese Democracy’. Luckily the wait for Helen Ganya’s second album wasn’t that long, but it felt like an eternity at times. 2019’s ‘Vanishing Lands’ was a striking piece of music that I recommend you checking out when you can. It was the most complete thing that Ganya had released. Her early Dog In The Snow releases hinted at a great talent, but it all came together on ‘Vanishing Lands’ like never before. From 2021 onwards it was rumoured that Ganya was working on a follow up. In May 2022 the ‘Heart to Heart Mirage’ EP was released. It was an idea bridge release. The songs were strong and offered hints at where Ganya was, creatively. It offered something to keep us waiting until album two was released. A few months later the waiting is over, and ‘Polish The Machine’ is here. And was it worth the wait.
The album opens with ‘I Will Hold That Hand for You’. A serene, slow moving, track that welcomes us to the album gracefully. This is followed up by ‘You Girls Never Die’. Now Helen Ganya starts to take things up a notch. The music is harder hitting and danker than the opener. ‘Afterparty’ is one of the standout moments on the album. For 3:14 Ganya has us in the palm of her hand. Elegantly she ramps up the tension through concentric melodies and the pristine vocals she possesses. It feels like for its entire duration Ganya is just building more and more tension until it reaches its peak with 20 seconds to go. It’s a masterclass in songwriting.
‘Polish The Machine’ ends on a reflective note. ‘Blue Fruit’ is more subdued than the previous nine-tracks. There is a remorseful tone to Ganya’s vocals. Musically the synths are poignant, bass almost thunderous, but the beats are sparse. It feels like lying in a warm bath with your head slightly submerged. You are in your own little world. You can hear the outside world bleeding in, but you are safe and secure in your bubble. ‘Birdsong’ is the standout moment on the album. The star of the show are those vocals. OK, they’ve been the star for most of the album, but here the lilting quality to them is something else. The first time I played the album I had to stop what I was doing. Take it back to the start. And listen to it all over again, being totally captivated. I recommend it.
Lyrically Helen Ganya is telling tales of love, loss and redemption ‘Afterparty’, ‘Delicate Graffiti’ and ‘Blue Fruit’, but she’s also talking about bigger things. ‘You Girls Never Die’ feels like a feminist anthem, but with a pop twist. When she starts talking about greater issues the album really steps up a notch and becomes something more than a series of catchy songs. It becomes mantra-like. And with each repetition, the more power if gives off.
One of the first things you notice about ‘Polish The Machine’ is how damn catchy it is. While listening to it for the first time I was singing along with the choruses. This never happens. One of the more intriguing aspects of this record is how massive it all sounds. Vocals soar, and swoon, over driving basslines, woozy synths and crushing beats. It all creates a glorious listening experience.
This is an album that shows a progression in both song writing and composition. Listening to back to Ganya’s early releases its hard to predict this is where she would have gone. The songs are more mature and, dare I say, timeless. That isn’t a slight on her early releases, but ‘Polish The Machine’ has taken everything up a notch. Overall, this is an album to cherish. To play often and get swept in its succinct charm. Helen Ganya is a proper talent, and something tells me this isn’t the last time we’ll heard those alluring vocals back with delicate melodies and crashing synths.
Words: Nick Roseblade