Chairlift ‘Something’ Review in Pitchfork (Posted By Harry)

Chairlift- Something (Young Turks)

Chairlift- Something (Young Turks)Chairlift:
8 in Pitchfork.

Chairlift ‘Something’
Young Turks

By Matthew Perpetua

Chairlift‘s second full-length, Something, is a major creative leap, but on a superficial level, it’s not that different from their debut. They’re still mining uncool and untapped corners of 1980s pop for inspiration, and singer Caroline Polachek has doubled down on a vocal style that alternates between joyfully expressive and charmingly deadpan. But the melodies are bolder, the arrangements have more snap and sparkle, and Polachek has thankfully moved beyond the first album’s overly cerebral lyrics to embrace emotionally potent lines that explore the subtler dynamics of romantic relationships and the evolution of character.

Of course, Chairlift aren’t exactly the same group that broke into the outskirts of the mainstream when their 2008 hit “Bruises” found its way into an Apple ad. Founding member Aaron Pfenning split with the group after his romantic relationship with Polachek ended. (He now has an atmospheric disco project called Rewards.) Now a duo, Polachek and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Wimberly have a different chemistry. Wimberly, a producer on several Das Racist tracks, excels at composing slick music that retains force and physicality, which suits Polachek’s voice and melodies. As a result, Something is cleaner and more elegant, buffing their crisp electronic pop to an immaculate sheen.

Polachek’s presence fades when the music gets too inert, but Chairlift turn that potential liability into a strength on two of Something‘s most beautiful tracks: On “Frigid Spring” and “Turning”, she pushes her voice to a breathy, ethereal extreme. More often, though, her voice is lucid and assertive. She’s excellent with subtle phrasing, selling wry lyrics without getting too smirky, and conveying infatuation without sounding overly elated. She’s especially fond of Robert Smith-like exclamations, sometimes ending a key line with excited verbal punctuation. Her voice is technically proficient– she sometimes recalls Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie– but her main strength lies in how clearly her personality comes across in these songs. Whether she’s giving voice to a maniac in “Sidewalk Safari” or gushing with love in “I Belong in Your Arms”, Polachek sounds totally comfortable and in control.

Though it’s obvious that Polachek is often singing from the vantage point of characters (we’d obviously have heard about it if she actually ran someone down in her car), the emphasis on emotion and relationships is key to Something‘s success. It’s notable that their debut’s best song, “Bruises”, was a straight-up love song, while the clunkiest tracks belabored conceits that felt self-consciously imposed on the music. The most resonant lines on Something are disarmingly direct: “If I gave you what you’re asking for, you know you wouldn’t want it anymore,” “Does my love only count if it’s proved?,” “My heart is beating fast and I wish that I knew why.” Polachek still indulges in high concept, but with more grace and nuance, as on “Amanaemonesia”, where she meditates on the cultural and psychological power of healing rituals. She’s even more successful on “Guilty as Charged”, in which her verses lay out an elaborate trial metaphor that contrasts nicely with her cutting to the core of her character’s emotional dilemma on the chorus.

The song on Something that gets me in the gut is “I Belong in Your Arms”, a declaration of uncomplicated affection that makes the most of the band’s embrace of faster tempos and open-hearted lyrics. Chairlift couldn’t have pulled off a track like this back when they made pop music with scare quotes, footnotes, and caveats. But now that they’ve backed away from those defense mechanisms, they’ve allowed themselves to go all the way in expressing a powerful sentiment. There are many songs out there that echo the tone and message of “I Belong in Your Arms”, but this one is no less joyous or affecting for lacking a unique concept. In cutting away their baggage and hang-ups, Chairlift have opened themselves up to writing truly great pop.”

1.) Sidewalk Safari
2.) Wrong Opinion
3.) I Belong In Your Arms
4.) Take It Out On Me
5.) Ghost Tonight
6.) Cool As A Fire
7.) Amanaemonesia
8.) Met Before
9.) Frigid Spring
10.) Turning
11.) Guilty As Charged

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