Despite producing a critically-acclaimed synthpop album in 2012’s Somewhere, Chairlift (aka Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly) is still most well-known for their track “Bruises” that was featured in an Apple ad back in the day when iPod commercials created indie darlings. Since then, the duo has explored side-projects, with Polachek’s Ramona Lisa and Wimberly producing for the likes of Solange Knowles. Yet the experience of co-writing Beyoncé’s “No Angel” in 2013 more directly informed the direction of their third LP, Moth. This time, Chairlift has expanded upon their ’80s-indebted synthpop to create an indie-pop/R&B sound that relies on powerful hooks, funk-inspired guitar and bass and dancefloor beats alongside Polachek’s flexible vocal.

To an extent, Moth sounds like a melting pot of pop styles, but the duo manages to claim the mishmash as their own. The album starts off with a string of unrelenting dance tracks that would be surefire radio hits for anyone else. “Polymorphing” kicks the funk/R&B off with a stepping bass line and accents of brass, but the highlight is undoubtedly Polachek’s vocal acrobatics on the chorus and her effortless falsetto. From there, Chairlift dives deeper and deeper into R&B. “Romeo” erupts into an industrial-dancebeat only to let glossy verses from Polachek and a shiny synthesizer carry the bulk of the track. This Chairlift is assured and bursting with infectious energy, and that only carries through into “Ch-Ching.” Certainly the most complex arrangement on the album, the track is layer after layer of horns, a heartbeat-like pulsating beat and trapped clap-snares.

What these songs capture is Chairlift’s love of uninhibited, wild abandon. If their musical touchstones seem like a grab-bag of ’80s sonic trends, so be it. The goal clearly is to craft the most grandiose of sugary pop songs. Groovy bass, trap beats and glorious splashes of brass are all part of that. “Show U Off” may be a song about showing off a partner, but Polachek is doing some showing off of her own when she hits that impressive high note. Added confidence is the key difference between Something and Moth. Now that the duo has the writing and producing credits to back up their work, there’s no reason not to throw everything at this album.

Where Moth loses some of its coherence, however, is in its quieter moments, so outdone as they are by the rest of the album’s relentless pop. Peppered through the second half are vulnerable, stripped down tracks that sound more like singer-songwriter material than Chairlift offerings. “Crying in Public” sits on the extreme end, with Polachek crooning about uncontrollable emotions. Musically, it’s built around a languorous bassline, echoing synth and rapid finger-plucked guitar. The combination sounds eerily like a ’90s acoustic love ballad, with Polachek’s delivery wavering between Liz Phair and Imogen Heap’s poppier moments. “Ottawa to Osaka” and closing tracks “Unfinished Business” and “No Such Thing as Illusion” are just as pared back but at least continue the album’s larger exploration of evocative electronics. These downtempo tracks offer a chance for listeners to come down from the high of the stacked first half of Moth, but bunching these songs together at the end, in effect, dampens the energy that tracks like “Moth to the Flame” exude.

Chairlift has an unfortunate history of being under-appreciated for the unique synthpop they create. Moth doesn’t see them chart new territory as much as put their talents to the test. Their infectious dance and R&B beats; the mix of melodic and industrial synth lines; groovy bass and touches of brass don’t constitute a new sound, but provide the ideal groundwork for Polachek and Wimbley to prove what they can do with the prevailing pop trends of today. The bulk of Moth is vibrant, intriguing takes on the retro-pop that now seems to dominate the genre. If Chairlift intend to wait another four years to release a new album, Moth is certainly recommendation enough for endless producing opportunities.

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