Album Review: Chairlift-Moth

Chairlift is a New-York based band comprised of lead vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Caroline Polachek and multi-instrumentalist/producer Patrick Wimberly. Moth is their third album, and the first since Something, their 2012 breakthrough.

In the time since Something, Polachek and Wimberly have kept plenty busy — Polachek’s demo “No Angel” was given to Beyoncé by her sister Solange, who recorded it and included it on her (still amazing) 2013 self-titled album. Polachek also released a solo album, Arcadia, in 2014, under the name Ramona Lisa. Wimberly produced work for various artists, including Empress Of and tUnE-yArDs.

Something was firmly rooted in the ‘80s synthpop revivalism that’s seen a spike in popularity in the past half-decade, and each song felt like a variation on a theme. Moth, however, feels more varied, with the band trying on many hats, and achieving great success with every direction they take.

When Chairlift released Moth’s lead single, “Ch-Ching,” last October, it was clear that the band wasn’t going to just rehash their former successes. The song opens with skronky saxophones and whistling, and feels very organic and physical, which marked a change from the band’s usual ethereal, highly polished sound. “Ch-Ching” is also noteworthy because it’s palpably more confident and self-assured than anything Chairlift has ever released.

The 10 songs on Moth still fall somewhere within that featherlight synthpop realm, but the album feels earthier, like it’s a living, breathing thing. “Polymorphing”’s blend of jazz, disco, and soul makes it sound like something that would be a perfect addition to Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories.

Caroline Polachek’s vocals are a noticeably more integral part of Chairlift’s sound this time around. She’s an arresting singer, with a high, clear, operatic soprano that often soars up into Mariah Carey-esque whistle tones without warning (not a complaint). Her vocal melodies are instantly memorable, but they’re unconventional. Polachek is a classically trained vocalist, and it shows.

Moth’s most rewarding moment is the midtempo, atmospheric “Crying In Public.” Polachek got married last fall, and the lyrics on this song are about being overwhelmed by the new love she was experiencing at the time: “Sorry I’m crying in public this way… Sorry I’m causing a scene on the train.” The song’s bubbling bassline and 6/8 time signature, combined with the lyrics and Caroline Polachek’s always-exquisite vocal performance, make the song cathartic and emotional.

With Moth, Chairlift have crafted a cohesive yet varied pop album with an uncanny attention to detail and disregard for current trends. In that sense, the album feels like a spiritual sibling to Grimes’ Art Angels. Both albums are the work of artists who are synthesizing their various respective influences to create music on their own terms.

- Erik Starkman

Scott MeyerMusicComment