So much works about Chairlift’s new album, Something, that the occasional grandiose misstep feels like an expected formality. The retro synthpop duo first tasted notoriety with their 2008 single “Bruises” from Does You Inspire You, a tune that achieved universal ubiquity after Apple licensed it for an iPod nano commercial. Does You Inspire You was a pretty fun time- fluffy, inconsistent, but nice to have around if your mood aligned itself with the sound. Something, however, represents a quasi-evolutionary leap forward for Chairlift and seemingly without compromising any of the infectious sugary angst that “Bruises” so brazenly represented. Sounding simultaneously relevant and nostalgically indebted, Something is at it’s best when channeling the stylish edge of Eurythmics, Toto and (bless their hearts) Cocteau Twins. Chairlift continues to produce music that is a licenser’s dream- but few tracks here would fit in on something as thematically weightless as an iPod commercial.
Working as a duo for the first time following the departure of Aaron Pfenning, Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly seem to have compensated by taking their sound in a slightly darker, more haunting direction. To clarify, Something is about the farthest thing from a somber, morose collection of music, but there is an often-bitter inflection in both Polachek’s vocals and Wimberly’s warbly chord progressions that suggests a firmly planted chip on the shoulder. This newfound edge in Chairlift’s music creates a strong nocturnal feel to the majority of Something. The album’s best tracks echo subterranean themes of urban nightlife as well as subtle doses of sleazy homage. The rapid-fire grittiness of “Sidewalk Safari” and the effervescent “Take It Out on Me” best exhibit this grimy, sinewy, but still playful direction. As enjoyable as Something can often be, the main flaws though lie in its tonal inconsistencies. The slower tracks, such as “Frigid Spring” and “Turning” stand out as independently interesting pieces of music that fail to coalesce with the bounciness of the rest of the album. They work far better on their own as tightly crafted and often beautiful ballads set aside from the pizazz that dominates this new album. These minor faults aside, Chairlift have returned with an alarming sense of gravity. Whereas Does You Inspire You threatened to float away if distanced too far from the listener’s memory, Something sticks with you. At least for the majority of the running time, it’s largely inescapable.
- Fr. Jones