Release Date: Jan 24, 2012
Record label: Columbia / DMZ
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
In 2008, these kids made the Brooklyn scene with a song that got heavy iPod-commercial rotation ("Bruises") and an album of spookily sexy, PJ Harvey-meets-Eurythmics synth pop they claim was designed for haunted houses. Four years later, they've set aside such Scooby-Doo-ish pretensions and brightened things up, embracing the refined, airy side of 1980s New Wave with help from alt-rock production heavies Alan Moulder and Dan Carey. Singer Caroline Polachek still plays the towering ice queen on dark-angled ballads like "Cool as a Fire," but there’s tons of swooning bliss here, too – on the majestically crushed-out "I Belong in Your Arms" she beams, "Feelings are good/ Nothing to say," and the synths shine like Molly Ringwald’s earrings.
Chairlift’s Something takes a retro road frequently traveled these days, invoking spacey synth and steady beats primed for cardio training (legwarmers optional). That’s true even in the album’s moodier turns, like the excellent “Take It Out On Me,” a ballad befitting a lovelorn montage in a 1980s teen flick. But compare this sophomore effort to 2008 debut Does You Inspire You and it’s clear these Brooklynites have come a long way.
ChairliftSomething[Columbia / Young Turks ; 2012]By Chris Brancato; January 23, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetIn the process of landing a major label deal with Columbia, Chairlift also managed to lose one of their founding members, Aaron Pfenning, after his relationship with singer Caroline Polachek went south. As unfortunate as it might be to say, this may have been the best thing that could have happened to the band, especially considering how much further the act has come since their 2008 debut Does You Inspire You. What we have on Something is Polachek and Patrick Wimberly sounding both confident and self-assured, and at the peak of their game.
Given Chairlift’s retro-futurist synth-pop bent, it’d be easy enough to chuck the band in with the rest of the ‘80s revivalists looking to do for chintzy synths and gated drums what last year’s indies did for saxes and flutes. But the duo responsible for Something merit a place of distinction amid the phalanx of Nite Jewels and Charlie XCXs. Though they borrow frequently and effectively from the new-wave template (“Ghost Tonight” is almost a straight Eurythmics rip; it’s also the best pop song I’ve heard all month), Chairlift has produced a thoroughly modern pop record that should appeal as much to 4AD completists as Florence and the Machine fans.
On Chairlift's sophomore album, the Brooklyn bandmates piece together another retro-futuristic sound collage of 1980s synth pop, sci-fi club music, and arty electronica, with Caroline Polachek's pretty, almost classical-sounding vocals floating high above the mix. Like the music video for "Amaneamonesia," which featured a straight-faced Polachek doing fitness-video dance moves while wearing a bodysuit, Chairlift treat every song earnestly, even the ones that dive into camp. The goofiness that ran throughout their 2009 debut (remember "Le Flying Saucer Hat?") isn't so heavy-handed here, though, and several songs -- "I Belong in Your Arms," "Amaneamonesia," "Ghost Tonight" -- genuinely sound like forgotten '80s classics rather than 21st century pastiches.
Chairlift's second full-length, Something, is a major creative leap, but on a superficial level, it's not that different from their debut. They're still mining uncool and untapped corners of 1980s pop for inspiration, and singer Caroline Polachek has doubled down on a vocal style that alternates between joyfully expressive and charmingly deadpan. But the melodies are bolder, the arrangements have more snap and sparkle, and Polachek has thankfully moved beyond the first album's overly cerebral lyrics to embrace emotionally potent lines that explore the subtler dynamics of romantic relationships and the evolution of character.
There are quite a few one-off ways to be familiar with Chairlift—those kids with the cheery single from that iPod commercial way back, or that Williamsburg band who wanted to make music for haunted houses (how utterly hip). That up-tempo, tad-spacey group who seemed to be in hot pursuit of perfect pop, but left a pretty sizable gap between their successful debut and sophomore effort. Well, the latter has arrived, and it proves an evolved, enjoyable followup that digs a bit deeper in both sound and lyric, neatly tied up in an ultra-eighties, ultra-gloss pop package.
Chairlift’s 2008 debut Does You Inspire You was a proper contrary. On one hand it delivered some of the most luxurious, artful pop of the age and on the other some baffling “Is that the time? Must dash, I’ve left a knife in the fork drawer” calamity. Poor listeners didn’t know which way to turn. It was a confusing time for pop and for humanity.
Having seen their music receive its first exposure to a UK audience via an iPod Nano television commercial back in 2008, the ensuing years have been a whole lot more eventful for Chairlift than many would have anticipated. Initially formed at the University of Colorado in 2005 by girlfriend/boyfriend duo Caroline Polachek and Aaron Pfenning, their relocation to Brooklyn the following year would see them hook up with multi-faceted musician Patrick Wimberly. It was here that the songs which would go on to form their debut long player Does You Inspire You? were conceived, culminating in a licensing deal with Columbia Records.
It’s been almost four years since Chairlift released their debut LP, Does You Inspire You, to positive reception and a surprising degree of commercial recognition (Remember Bruises in the iPod commercial?). In the time that has passed, the trio has become a duo (a break-up between founders Caroline Polachek and Aaron Pfenning saw the latter go solo under the name Rewards), the band signed to Columbia, and the two remaining members have partaken in other projects (multi-instrumentalist Patrick Wimberly produced Das Racist’s Relax, Polachek lent her voice to Washed Out and others). With all the side projects and inner turmoil in Chairlift, one could not reasonably expect growth in songwriting lyrics from Something.
Fittingly, for a band that formed intending to make music for haunted houses, [a]Chairlift[/a] have always been consummate shape-shifters. The Brooklynites’ inspired 2008 debut album was an amorphous swirl of influences that delighted many but lacked stylistic focus. [a]PJ Harvey[/a], My Morning Jacket, Siouxsie And The Banshees, ‘In Rainbows’… it felt like a jigsaw of a modernist art masterpiece in which no pieces quite matched up.
CHAIRLIFT play the Horseshoe March 28. See listing. Rating: NNN It's been nearly four years since Chairlift scored modest crossover success, a major label deal and prime placement in an iPod commercial - recently enough to capitalize on name recognition but long enough ago to escape categorization as "that iPod band." That leaves a relatively clean slate for the Brooklyn electro-pop duo's sophomore album, on which they replace their earlier shifting identity with one firmly grounded in 80s revival.
Chairlift are a band stuck between rock and an art place. Not quite poppy enough to cross over to the mainstream (even their song Bruises soundtracking a 2008 iPod nano ad campaign didn't properly break them), but not quite experimental enough for the avant crowd either, on the grounds that, for all their talk of making "haunted house music", they too often enjoy sounding like Tango in the Night-era Fleetwood Mac. Not that this should matter, as Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly, now a duo following Aaron Pfenning's departure, are on to something beguiling with this third album, combining big 80s melodies with an unsettling undertow.
If there’s a band that can get away with writing “Amanaemonesia,” a five-minute single about magic and a fictional disease, it’s Chairlift. After all, this is the band that sang about garbage and pencils on its 2009 debut, Does You Inspire You. But with a few exceptions — including the aforementioned opening track — the Brooklyn-based outfit is more sentimental than silly on its latest release, Something.
Even in this day and age where record labels matter less and less, it’s gotta be a tricky needle to thread when an indie act (Brooklyn synth-pop duo Charlift) signs to a major label (Columbia). Chairlift’s 2009 signing wasn’t followed immediately with any new music; instead, Something surfaced more than two years afterward. It seems like a major delay, but it also gave the duo optimal time to make a killer synth-pop genre piece.
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.
You can really read someone's character in how they respond to life's little setbacks. You might have wondered how Chairlift's Caroline Polachek, the vestal virgin of 'Planet Health', the handstand-tumbling ingenue of 'Bruises' might weather the departure of her boyfriend and Chairlift co-founder Aaron Pfenning before the writing of their second album. Would she weep? Would she crumble? Let's have a listen to the opening track, 'Sidewalk Safari', then: "Not too good with guns / Poison seems old-fashioned...
Being in an Apple ad can be the kiss of death, especially with a song as whimsically catchy as "Bruises" from Chairlift's 2008 debut album, Does You Inspire You. To fend off sophomore stagnation, the Brooklyn duo returns with material that stays true to its trademark song structure but turns the musicality up considerably. A song like "Amanaemonesia" starts with a thin bassline bouncing to densely layered synths in the chorus.
A post-breakup record that mostly makes do with sounding foxy as hell. Alex Denney 2012 Touting the same blend of 1980s synth-pop and Aquarian kitsch that propelled MGMT and Empire of the Sun towards the top of the charts in 2008, Chairlift stalled halfway up the banister to success with their debut of the same year, Does You Inspire You. Ironically, it was the nouveau-new age zealots at Apple that gave the Brooklyn-based group their biggest break to date, when first single Bruises was used to advertise the iPod Nano – an apposite choice of bedfellow, since the record’s genre-flipping felt a little too flimsy; too knowing to really linger in the memory.