Album Review Chairlift - Something

‘Something’ is like a grand, multi-branched, ageing tree of 80s synth-pop.

Perhaps the thing pop musicians most fear is a one hit wonder; a flurried spell of success followed by a downward spiral, culminating in the songwriter of said hit being chosen as a side character in a US sitcom, such is the hilarity of their loss of income and credibility. Worse than a one hit wonder however is a song that fails to lure in an obscene amount of cash, despite being used generously in a successful ad campaign. Chairlift’s ‘Bruises’ was under the microscope for a while; a light and fluffy pop song, the perfect companion for the carefree, technicolour lifestyle that the actors in Apple’s adverts so evidently enjoyed. But the appeal of the three-piece (make that two-piece, upon this release) was somewhat limited beyond that one song.

‘Something’ will be labelled by most as a critic-defying next move: A means of shaking off the cobwebs of ‘Bruises’’ success and making a much bolder, somewhat unexpected announcement to kickstart a huge career. Its main assets are that of triumphant power ballads (‘Met Before’) and upbeat 80s-indebted exercises in unadulterated joy (‘I Belong In Your Arms’) and both of these things are really striking, as the Chairlift we once knew didn’t seem capable of such feats. But the signs were there in middling debut ‘Does You Inspire You’. The ideas were in their early stages of development, but if ‘Something’ was planned years ahead as an illustrious step-up, its predecessor was aware of that.

One quite revelatory development however is the attention-grabbing, pop-songstress stance taken up by Caroline Polachek. Previously, she was a more coy figure. The vital ingredient in Chairlift’s songs, yes, but not an irreplaceable frontwoman, as she has now become. Throughout ‘Something’, she morphs her vocal style from brittle to commanding, shifting between the two polar opposites with ease. Her incredible ability is most epitomised in ‘Ghost Tonight’, where she begins by channeling the range of Leslie Fiest, before leaping out of her parameters and taking full control of the song’s unforgettable chorus.

That’s another thing: These songs are much in the vein of ‘Bruises’, only because they stick in your head, no matter how hard you try to shake them off. The big, bold melodies are unrelenting, whether they form the grand balladry of ‘Cool As A Fire’ or if they accompany the frenzied synth-work of ‘Wrong Opinion’. Standout ‘Sidewalk Safari’ sees Polachek playing the role of revenge-seeking protagonist, bellowing the threat of “I’m gonna run you down” like a possessed killer. The shamelessness of ‘I Belong In Your Arms’ is even better, somehow recalling the ridiculous euphoria of 1983 film ‘Flashdance’.

‘Something’ is like a grand, multi-branched, ageing tree of 80s synth-pop, encompassing every variance of style and genre and recreating each classic movement with honour and aplomb. Polachek is especially outstanding, exposing herself as one of pop’s most versatile vocalists. One trick pony, Chairlift are most certainly not. In fact, they’ve brandished a full hand of unbeatable cards with this second album.


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