After working with Beyoncé on her track ‘No Angel’, the Brooklyn indie-pop duo, better known as Chairlift, are back with their 2016 third record, Moth. We haven’t heard from Chairlift since their 2012 sophomore album Something, which received good reviews but drifted underneath any mainstream momentum.
Their first album in four years, Moth carries a more commercially driven approach while still honing their signature sound. The self-produced record is essentially an ode to their hometown of New York; filled with the same contrasts that the Big Apple encapsulates. It’s a mix of excitement, attitude, vulnerability, hope and darkness.
Vocalist Caroline Polachek and guitarist Patrick Wimberly deliberately titled the album Moth as a metaphor for the fragility and relentless nature of the furry insects. It’s also because despite the many bright lights in New York City, moths are hardly seen. The ten-track record might mean vulnerability, but that’s hardly the case for every song. The self-produced album carries a two-toned arrangement between subdued indie electronica and overt ‘80s pop.
For someone who, admittedly, hasn’t listened to Chairlift since their 2008 pop-hit ‘Bruises’, it was an applauded moment when the album’s first track ‘Look Up’ began playing. It’s an ethereal track that feels completely free of inhibition. Polachek’s searing vocals combine beautifully with a mix of low lurking electronics, guitar and brass. “All I want is to want nothing, nothing, nothing,” she croons.
There’s a slight language warning for the second track of the record, but ‘Polymorphing’ is tasteful and hey, who doesn’t love an unexpected f-bomb, especially when it’s in a song as superb as this one. The electro-soul groove kicks off instantly with airy brass and synth burbles, hallmarking itself as captivating despite it’s lack of direction and is definitely the album’s catchiest track. The second release of the album, ‘Romeo’, is a synth heavy, energising track with a lyrical repetitiveness that some will find more irritating than catchy.
The next track on the record, ‘Ch-Ching’, carries an attitude similar to Gwen Stefani’s 2004 hit single ‘Hollaback Girl’, and you can take that however you like. It’s pristinely produced with a protruding bassline and hyper catchy beat but it’s a bit overwhelming straight after the earlier track.
‘Crying In Public’ is by far the best and most vulnerable song on the album. Filled with Polachek’s sweet and heart wrenched croons, the beautifully crafted lyrics will resonate with anyone who’s ever been hopelessly and irrationally in love.
“I’m sorry I’m causing a scene on the train, I’m falling for you, I’m falling for you, I’m falling for you.”
‘Ottawa to Osaka’ is essentially a pleasant track with a soft melody and airy vocals but it falls below recognition when compared to the previous track. ‘Moth to the Flame’ and ‘Show U Off’ are a tasty treat for those “poptimists” out there. Lyrically, they lack the intricate poetic craft of other tracks on the album but they will no doubt be a hit on the radio, gym or d-floor.‘Unfinished Business’ brings a welcomed mood shift, as the duo tone down the pop and absolutely nail it with a slow snare and deep bass blankets. It’s arrestingly melancholic manner carries an underlying ode to a lost love in New York City – just listen to Polachek’s eerie wail as she sings ‘unfinished business.’ Goosebumps.
The six-minute track, ‘No Such Thing as Illusion’, closes off the album with the same vocal oddities displayed throughout the whole album. It’s a shape-shifting track that is really quite beautiful, vulnerable and honest. Polachek croons, “After all I thought I wanted, Ripped in two, Put on display, After all I ever needed, Was your arm around my waist.”
Moth is available now via Columbia Records/Sony Music.