Friday, February 26, 2016


"I'm turning into someone else," sang Caroline Polachek on the penultimate track of Something, Chairlift's second LP.

How accurate that statement turned out to be. Something was a big, fabulous throwback, couched in decadent '80s synth sounds and topped with just a sprinkling of cheese. Even the artwork looked like it was designed for an old VHS cassette:

Last month, however, that gloriously retro chrysalis has opened to reveal Moth, Chairlift's third album. Moths, of course, are usually gross and terrible, but this moth is actually rather beautiful:

Granted, that stunning red-tinged skyline does kind of dilute the grossness, but even the moth itself looks oddly gorgeous - just look at the feathery detail on its feelers!

There are still '80s-ish touches to be heard on Moth (a saxophonist named Danny Meyer is credited on several tracks), but the record's overall sound is a lot more modern than that of its predecessor. Where Something was all warm sounds and cushiony reverb, Moth is cool, crisp, and clean; these ten songs find the duo forging a path into the future rather than paying tribute to the past. Compare I Belong in Your Arms (Something's most unabashedly A-ha-riffic cut)...

...with the band's latest single Romeo:

These two tracks zip along at a similar tempo, but in my opinion, only one of them sounds like it was recorded in the last 20 years.

Chairlift's transition into the 21st century isn't the only metamorphosis that Moth has to offer. For the first few tracks, Caroline Polachek sounds ultra-confident, whether she's running rings around Romeo or masterminding a heist in Ch-Ching. But then Crying in Public - the album's fifth track - arrives on the scene, and we're presented with a different side of our narrator:

"Sorry I'm crying in public this way / I'm falling for you / I'm falling for you"

At this juncture, the headstrong confidence that characterises most of Moth's first half abruptly gives way to an outpouring of emotion. Polachek suddenly, jarringly stops sounding like someone who's in control, and we're forced to realise that even strong, self-reliant people who know what they want (and aren't afraid to take it) can occasionally be overwhelmed and by their own feelings and left as fragile as a moth's wing.

In Crying in Public, the narrator effectively admits to feeling dependent on another person, and that's where Moth gets really interesting because the second half of the album is spent trying to reconcile that vulnerable feeling - love, basically - with the confidence that we saw in those earlier tracks. Moth to the Flame finds Polachek (who, incidentally, got married last year) revelling in the aforementioned loss of control, while Show U Off turns romantic involvement into a source of pride rather than a weakness.
"Take a break from the moving mountains, I wanna show you off / Laying low at home, whatever, I wanna show you off / To the boys who think they're clever, I wanna show you off / So that they see who's finally saying yes to you / You can trust this, you can have this / Not playing a game / I wanna let this go public and not be ashamed"
All of this is backed by some of the best, most danceable pop music you're likely to hear this year, although Chairlift do opt to slow down and soften up a little for the final two tracks: the Björkily beautiful Unfinished Business, and the burbling, dreamlike No Such as Thing as Illusion. The latter manages to neatly dovetail the album's two main themes: having embraced the emotions that floored her on Crying in Public, our heroine is now back to being the assertive, assured creature who sang Ch-Ching and Romeo, except now she's asserting that, regardless of what other people might tell her, the things she feels now aren't ever going away.

No more transitions or sudden shifts; no more cocoons and metamorphoses. The moth is here to stay.

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