Chairlift | Something

Columbia (2011)
By RYAN REED  |  January 17, 2012
3.5 3.5 Stars


"You lost your focus, but I got a plan for it," sings Caroline Polachek in a crystal-clear chirp on "Amanaemonesia," hovering over a dark, winding bassline and iceberg synths. Those are the first words sung on Something, Brooklyn duo Chairlift's sophomore album, and Polachek slings them like a manifesto. Sure, in a way, it's Chairlift who have lost focus: with its cavernous psychedelic expanses and spacey lyrical assaults, Something makes the charming electro-pop of their first album (and its iPod-promoting singalong, "Bruises") sound like streamlined commercial grab-ass by comparison. But Polachek and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Wimberly, yes, "got a plan." Somehow they manage to combine their weirdest musical impulses with hooks that stick in your brain. Critics throw around the "art-pop" tag all the time, but marrying those two worlds is tricky business: "Sidewalk Safari" has a faint whiff of prog (surging synth lines, a tense bed of programmed rhythms, spoken-word sections, an electro outro ripped straight from a B-ninja flick), but, sweet Jesus, that chorus! Polachek plays the part of an asphalt-burning hired assassin — possessed, euphoric, her dexterous alto soaring through clouds of warm studio reverb as she promises to hunt down an anonymous bad guy, or perhaps a former lover ("If you see me on the street, you better run" has a nice gangsta-rap ring to it). To pull off tracks this crammed with ideas, you need expert producers, and it helps if they're British. Veteran rock legend Alan Moulder and eclectic electro-guy Dan Carey make sure Something sounds as huge as its aspirations, bringing an impeccably massive sheen to every note: mind-blowing synth-ballad "Take It Out on Me" sounds like the epic slow-dance finale to a 1986 high school prom, but recorded in the year 2050.
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