Nedda Afsari/Courtesy of the artist
A rabbit standing on the fringe of the forest is an omen. Nothing good comes from chasing a rabbit. If for some purpose you see a rabbit on the sting of the forest and need to observe it — do not. Give it some thought: Alice in Wonderland by means of Jefferson Airplane, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Elmer Fudd. When a rabbit seems three songs into Caroline Polachek’s sophomore album beneath her personal title, Want, I Wish to Flip Into You, it’s a wink, a signifier, a seduction. Not a lot of a rabbit or perhaps a “wabbit” however a bunny. It’s as if she is a bunny within the form of a lady. Or a lady standing in entrance of Plato’s Cave, which is definitely a Rainforest Café, in a Vivienne Westwood cardigan, being like, “Soiled prefer it’s Earth Day!” Or a lady who’s a woman. Or a lady who’s a woman who just isn’t tethered to a corporeal type. That is “Bunny is a Rider.” An ideal pop tune on a document about pop music and its guarantees. It’s a tune that treats the rabbit, the wabbit, the bunny on the fringe of the woods as a come hither: I dare you.
This album comes at a very breathless level in Polachek’s profession, an increase that has been gradual however principally fixed for over 15 years. Lengthy gone is that second when her band Chairlift went from a Brooklyn indie-pop band who toured with Ariel Pink to a band who obtained its tune synced in an iPod Nano business. Right here she is, a solo artist happening tour with Dua Lipa, co-writing what’s presumably the weirdest Beyoncé tune of all time, however not really having to cope with being well-known. As a substitute what she will get to be is an icon to chill children on the coasts. An it-girl! Kate Bush — whom Polachek is typically in comparison with, a lot to her chagrin — if she walked for the very hip, very downtown American model Eckhaus Latta and was an ’80s child. A would-be Steven Meisel muse, standing on a tightrope in leather-based chaps, hair completely gelled into place.
And the factor is: Her music is definitely good. It’s not all aesthetics and artifice. Her music just isn’t a type of artwork initiatives by a style person who’s like, a white woman in rectangular sun shades rapping lazily over an 808 (though there may be rapping on Want — oh my god, the rap, let’s put a pin in that for a second). As a substitute, her music bends towards maximalism, towards legibility and being mimetic. On 2019’s Pang, there have been pictures of magic carpets, being simply one other woman within the metropolis in a sweater, synthesizers that opened up like portals, a banana that was really somebody’s junk. All of them appeared indecipherable at first, virtually free-associative, till you listened actually intently and then you definitely realized she was singing about having your coronary heart damaged or attempting to be chill and not unhappy whereas receiving a dick pic. She writes pop music, however it’s slanted and enchanted, imprecise and irregular. And if Pang, which was an alluring however at occasions barely underrealized document, catapulted Polachek into the world of being a solo pop auteur, then Want is the pure subsequent step in evolution.
Listed here are among the moods and states of being expressed on Want: campy, freaky, slutty, dissociated, heady, harmful, ephemeral. Right here is how they manifest: in a youngsters’s choir, mayflies in a swimming pool, a butterfly web with a heady and spectral sort of vibe. Like its predecessor, Want is a particularly cogent pay attention. All of the items match neatly collectively right into a document that, like Pang, continues to discover the character of the pop type. Pop on the outskirts of pop. To be extra particular: It is a reflection on the pop of the ’90s and the early 2000s, the stuff the place on one finish you will have the sharp, arty electropop of Chicks on Velocity or Ladytron, and on the opposite, the buoyant and barely feral bubblegum of Aqua and The Cardigans. The music taking place on the fringes of the entire Neptunes-Britney Spears factor on “Slave 4 U.” Want can be the reprise of her work with Danny L Harle, a former member of the experimental pop label-cum-collective PC Music, who very a lot traffics in that type of flip of the century cultural voidism: pop switched on.
On “Fairly in Attainable,” there may be the IV drip of bassline that chases after Polachek’s vocals, adopted by a click on monitor that sort of offers off a chintzy, ’90s, Moloko vibe. “Crude Drawing of an Angel” is just like the needle drop in Portishead’s “Glory Field,” the place it seems like gravity is drawing you into the molten core of the solar. “Draw the blinds / Draw the tub,” she sings over an aqueous hit from the drum machine. And “Fly to You,” which options Grimes and Dido, whose No Angel seems like a Polachek ur-text, is lush, stuffed with little yelps, synthesizers that mimic strings, the chiming of a bell. It is big, melodramatic. “After all of the tears, you are all I would like,” Polachek repeats in her resonant soprano.
And people are simply the quieter songs, which I’d argue are among the much less attention-grabbing, much less dangerous choices on the document. When Polachek goes greater, leans deeper into being a maximalist, issues are fraught but additionally thrilling. “Sundown” is the document’s nadir, the place the maximalism goes too far. It’s a deeply unlistenable pastiche of flamenco music the place Polachek is de facto attempting to sing like Shakira for some purpose — a fluke on an in any other case glorious document. Opener “Welcome to My Island” begins with Polachek wailing like she’s on the partitions of Troy, after which a synth will get arpeggiated and he or she begins singing about her island that she lives on like a brat. After which, across the tune’s midpoint, she begins rapping! Like Debbie Harry on Blondie’s “Rapture.” The rap, which is within the final half of the tune, is nonsensical. The primary time I listened, I discovered it deeply cringey in the identical vein as “Sundown.” However the cringe is the purpose, you see. It is all part of the superstructure of the document: Want is an album that performs with pop’s ridiculousness, the improbability of rhyming “water’s turning crimson” and “cannot go to mattress.” It isn’t at all times profitable (see once more: “Sundown”), however when it’s, when that irony matches up with the structure of Polachek’s pop, like when it does on “Bunny,” or when Polachek threatens to not allow you to go away her island on “Island,” that absurdity feels actually thrilling. It seems like a pop music of concepts, not self-serious, however rigorous, muscular.
Better of all is “Billions,” which is probably, subsequent to “Bunny,” the most effective songs Polachek has written. She as soon as referred to as the tune “tantric.” And certainly, it’s. It’s an extremely attractive, extremely bizarre tune. There are headless angels, lifeless on arrival. A man who “lies like a sailor,” however “loves like a painter.” The overflowing of a cup. A synth that truly perhaps feels like somebody blowing right into a shofar. A synth that feels like somebody smashing a hoop of Saturn with a sledgehammer. The Trinity Youth Choir singing, “Iiiiiiiii by no means felt so near you!” Polachek being like: “billlllliyahnzzzz.” It is spectacular, and on a document the place affect is the purpose, “Billions” exists in a swirl all by itself. In its hyper-specific, hyper-strange pictures there’s a lovely readability. You’re feeling what she’s feeling. As a substitute of being merely referential to pop music, it tells us the place pop music can go: to startling lands unseen.