Chairlift, comprised of vocalist and synthesist Caroline Polachek and musician and producer Patrick Wimberly, are back with their third album, Moth. Together, this New York-based, indie synthpop duo has successfully paired Caroline’s unique vocal melodies with Patrick’s skillfully crafted, production-heavy music to make Moth a complete album that is sure to bring you to new places.
Moth feels like a party that your friends dragged you to–one that resulted in you having an awesome time. The opening track, “Look Up,” encompasses the drive there. For whatever reason, you don’t feel like going out, you’re bummed, and your head is apathetically leaning against the icy window in the car. Then, out of nowhere, a motivating voice pops into your head (surprise: it’s Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek!) singing, “Look up, hey!” The constant kick drum quickens your heart rate as you lift your head and secretly start getting excited. You walk into the party when “Polymorph” starts playing. You hear a thumping disco rhythm section and uplifting horns, which motivate you to start bobbing your head while you go hang up your coat. Affirming your suddenly improved mood, Caroline starts to sing, “Something better than what you’re asking for / Kid, kid, tonight.” You let the soothing disco guide you to the dance floor right in time for the next gritty, dance track.
“Romeo” starts with a dirty bass groove and a quick, pulsing drum beat, both of which cause your brain to imagine that you’ve quickly been transported to an underground warehouse-turned-nightclub. As you indulge your instinct to dance, you realize that Donkey Kong is the club’s DJ. Suddenly, the chorus comes on, and it rescues you from this rough-around-the-edges club and brings you to a happier roller rink as Caroline sings, “Hey Romeo / Put on your running shoes / I’m ready to go.” In this environment, the music is beautiful rather than monstrous as her voice carries the song with interesting melodies. The best dance song starts quietly after “Romeo” with a nice whistling intro, and “Ch-Ching” is indie pop at its finest. The track shows a lot of musical variety while still maintaining a heavy groove and a dance beat. After Caroline sings, “Getting what you want can be dangerous / But that’s the only way I want it to be,” for the last time, you are danced out for the time being, and you take a seat on the lumpy old couch.
“Crying in Public” comes on, and although it still encourages you to bob your head, it also reminds you of why you didn’t want to go out in the first place. Caroline narrates the current situation perfectly, singing, “Sorry I’m crying in public this way / I’m falling for you, I’m falling for you.” Ultimately, you manage to collect yourself after crying a bit and instead go on a mission to find food. “Ottawa to Osaka” provides a fitting, soothing ambience as the lights and atmosphere have started affecting you–making this mission quite the journey. You look around while arranging your plate and notice that people are giving you weird looks after you made a scene. As Caroline adds, “Everyone is asking why we do not talk like them,” you start to notice how out of place you feel.
Thankfully, “Moth to the Flame” brings life back into the party after that lull. You snack and subtly dance, making your way back into the main room. Despite any hesitation you feel after making a scene, the pumping verses inspire you to start dancing, and the chorus brings you to the next level. Fittingly, Caroline sings, “I can’t help it / I’m a moth to the flame,” as you continue to make your presence felt despite your embarrassment. Then you decide to gather all your friends in front of the big mirror in the bathroom so you can hype yourselves up. “Show U Off” comes pumping through the room slowly, and everyone reaches for the nearest microphone-like object. Everyone present sings along with Caroline as she croons, “‘Cause if you got it like we got it / If it’s real, and if you want it babe / Show it off.” Finally, as the song nears its coda, you do a knee slide onto the middle of the dance floor, hairbrush in-hand, singing, “I-I-I’m past the point of asking why / Why I-I-I, why I let the whole world know you’re mine.” When Caroline hits the amazing high note in the next line of the track, the whole room joins you in lip-syncing glory.
With that clearly being the climax of the evening, you and the goons get in the car and play the last two tracks of the album, “Unfinished Business” and “No Such Thing As Illusion,” on the way home. Fittingly, “Unfinished Business” isn’t overwhelming in volume. In fact, it is the perfect soothing song filled with emotional, crackling vocals, and it allows you reflect on the evening. Once “No Such Thing As Illusion” comes on, it reminds you of just how weird the evening was. Like the rest of the album, the production and the music sound alive. Unique sounds fill the air as Caroline explores melodies that you won’t find in music textbooks, and all the while your head maintains the bob that it carried all evening.
The combination of Patrick’s crafty composition and Caroline’s lyrics spun in an unpredictable web of vocal melodies brought me to a crazy world. Perhaps Moth won’t take you exactly where I imagined, but it will definitely take you somewhere.
REVIEW BY EDDIE CHISHAM