Chairlift to Experience
Chairlift's debut album, Does You Inspire You, seems to have proven the same thing to the band themselves as it did to anyone who did it. The defining songs on their breakout 2008 LP —"Evident Utensil," "Bruises," "Planet Health"— were its electro-pop numbers, with all the dabblings in country or alt-rock far less impressive; especially given they made the album have a pastichey feel.
Something hones in on the electronic palette, settling into a definitive identity that, this time, doesn't just feel like cutesy '80s revivalism (no "Take My Breath Away"-soundalikes this time). Chairlift are an electro-pop band, their individual voice found amidst eleven songs united in tone. Here, even deep-in-the-mix guitars either electric ("Met Before") or acoustic ("Frigid Spring") are almost shocking to hear; this an album, otherwise, utterly synthed to the heavens.
More importantly, Chairlift are now a duo, with founding member and co-songwriter Aaron Pfenning having departed in 2010 to be Rewards, and to collaborate with the Knowles sisters. In most projects, the loss of someone so at the creative core —so a part of the band's identity— could be traumatic. Here, it has only served to improve the band. Caroline Polachek was already the star of the show, anyway, on the first LP; now she no longer has to share the spotlight.
Sweet, Synthy Beauty
The quirkiness of their first album is present in the album's most immediate songs. Album opener "Sidewalk Safari" finds Polacheck cackling like a madwoman amidst its lyrical murderousness; "Amanaemonesia" makes a singalong out of its consonant-heavy seven-syllable title, a word/phenomenon that may or may not actually exist (its definition, within, "mistaken for magic"); "Met Before" about seemingly-fated crossing-of-paths with a potential paramour that depicts the hive of humanity as "the buzzing of billions."
But the spirit of the album is in its moments of sweet, synthy beauty; be they double-time lovesong ("I Belong In Your Arms"), spectral stalker ("Ghost Tonight"), or slow-burning passion play ("Cool As a Fire"). In each, the lack of quirk and pretty sound-palette provoke Polachek to sing with straight beauty; to sing out loud and pure and peaking at giddy heights.
When Polacheck carols "I'm alive! I'm alive! I know!" in "Cool As a Fire," she sounds it; their undoubted joy in the vertiginous heights of those high notes, a sense of freedom, of taking wing. The rest of the lyrics may hang heavy with burden —"gone with the weather/nothing ever lasts forever"; "with or without you/I don't have a choice"— but in that one instant it feels as if band, vocalist, and album have found a moment of pure liberation, unshackled from their past, utterly present in this instant.
Record Label: Columbia
Release Date: January 24, 2012