Caroline Polachek grew up in Connecticut and was formerly the vocalist for the indie-pop duo Chairlift, who had a surprise hit in 2008 with ‘Bruises’. She’s previously flirted with a solo career, releasing albums under the aliases Ramona Lisa and CEP, but Pang is her first record under her own name.
Pang is recorded with producers from the London collective PC Music, as well as New York producer Daniel Nigro. It’s a similar crew that’s produced recent records from Charli XCX and Carly Rae Jepsen, but Polachek favours artier, spacier music. The tone of Pang is dominated by ethereal art-pop, although it also features straightforward pop moments.
According to an interview with The Guardian, Polachek experienced adrenal rushes that interfered with her sleep. She referred to them as “pangs” and attempted to recreate the feeling in her music – the project was initially planned as warm and folk-tinged. Polachek also compares her experience making Pang to Joni Mitchell’s Hejira – at the end of a marriage, she felt a need to escape from New York.
Unusually, the most obvious pop hooks are buried towards the end of the record. ‘Door’ was the first single, and it’s a pretty and meandering melody, with meditative lyrics like “Who is the you who I sing to/When the house is empty?” ‘So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings’ is the most overt pop song, with its memorable “Get a little lonely” hook and Polachek’s excitable gasps.
The more ethereal songs sound surprisingly like Enya, although more conventional reference points are Imogen Heap and Bjork. Songs like ‘Look At Me Now’ and ‘Go As A Dream’ are gorgeous, with Polachek using her lovely voice to emote pretty tunes.
Pang presents Polachek’s pop sense and more ethereal moments in a unified fashion, and it’s one of my favourite records from this year.