Caroline Polachek grew up in Connecticut and was formerly the vocalist for the indie-pop duo Chairlift. Chairlift enjoyed a surprise hit in 2008 with ‘Bruises’, which featured on an Apple commercial. Polachek’s previously flirted with a solo career, releasing albums under the aliases Ramona Lisa and CEP, but 2019’s Pang was her first record under her own name.
Polachek’s solo music nearly straddles a line between pop music and art-rock. Kate Bush is an easy comparison, although there’s also an easy listening strand to her music. More unexpectedly, there are also traces of Enya – a hyperactive child, her parents played her the Irish easy-listening queen to calm her down.
Caroline Polachek Album Reviews
Pang | Desire, I Want to Turn Into You
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.
DESIRE, I WANT TO TURN INTO YOU
Caroline Polachek released her official solo debut Pang in 2019. She’d previously dabbed with solo records under pen names during her time with Chairlift. Desire has been slipping quietly out for a while – ‘Bunny is a Rider’ was a single back to 2021.
Where Pang balanced pop and art-rock sides, Desire emphasises the pop aspects of Polachek’s music. Polachek lost her father during the first wave of Covid – he was an academic who felt like Polachek was squandering her talents making pop music.
I am my father’s daughter in the end
He says watch your ego, watch your head girl
You’re so smart so talented
But now the water’s turning red
And it’s all your fault and it’s all your mess
And you’re all alone can’t go to bed
Again, Enya is an influence – the Celtic break on ‘Blood and Butter’ is the most obvious example. She’s also covered The Corrs, while Dido guests on this record. The arty pop of Kate Bush is also an obvious reference point for Polachek – Bush also dabbled in Celtic influences on her 1980s records. There’s also Spanish guitar on the excellent ‘Sunset’, while the organ of ‘Butterfly Net’ recalls the ambient swirl of Pink Floyd.
Desire, I Want To Turn Into You is a supremely confident second album from Polachek, seemingly at the height of her artistic powers.
Browse this Site's Review Archives
Read about the discographies of musical acts from the 1960s to the present day. Browse this site's review archives or enjoy these selections:
Blog Posts from Aphoristic Album Reviews
I add new blog posts to this website every week. Browse the archives or enjoy this random selection: