Review: Caroline Polachek’s “Desire, I Want To Turn Into You” – An Experimental yet Uneven Collection
Caroline Polachek doesn’t want to talk about herself anymore. No more introspective cuts about the all-consuming pain of falling, hard, in love – desire is something different, outward facing. On her second solo album ‘Desire, I Want To Turn Into You’, the artist – once a member of US buzzy synth-poppers Chairlift – welcomes that panoramic embrace of the world around her, with all its influences, contradictions and chaos. If 2019’s ‘Pang’, was about bottling everything she felt, ‘Desire…’ is about letting it finally flow free.
To call Polachek an “experimental” artist in the realm of pop would be like calling the Mona Lisa “good” in the realm of classical painting: it starts and ends with experimentation, pushing and pulling a cacophony of textures stitched together by Polachek’s always mercurial vocals. On ‘Desire…’, trip-hop and garage beats sit alongside Spanish guitar music, traditional bagpipes, shimmering harp accents, nodding to everything from Twin Peaks, Madonna and Massive Attack.
In the lead up to the new album, Polachek has been sharing songs as and when they’re ready: we’ve already heard a third of the album as singles, with ‘Bunny Is A Rider’ arriving in 2021 and a steady flow since. But it means that the aforementioned and ‘Welcome To My Island’ have a radio-ready, well-oiled slickness, catchy pop hooks and cheeky accents flecked with whistles and 8-bit beats. Other songs like ‘Hopedrunk Everasking’ or ‘Butterfly Net’, as if taken from Imogen Heap or Weyes Blood’s unused demos, suffer from a more abstract vision.
It would be unfair to call the album a time capsule of present times, however chaotic those are, as it feels like the uneven collection might morph into something else when revisiting it next week. But some do keep Polachek in control of the present: ‘Pretty In Possible’ borrows from Suzanne Vega’s ‘Tom’s Diner’ as much as Madonna’s ‘Frozen’, the result a beguiling creation. ‘I Believe’ nods to Polachek’s contemporary and collaborator Charli XCX with its firmly ‘00s garage beat and an ambition to be a sweaty club classic in 2023.
When Polachek announced the tracklist, mentions of both Grimes and Dido on the same track might have surprised some, but ‘Fly To You’ works. Within the logic of ‘Desire…’, compatible, open-hearted textures find one another across genres and eras, and so inimitable vocalists many would like to call “difficult” in the ‘00s, ‘10s and ‘20s now complete one another with ease.
‘Hopedrunk Everasking’ and ‘Smoke’ come the closest to the magic of ‘Pang’, the latter a high-stakes lament full of desire and anxiety, as much at home in the club and a desperately lonely bedroom. There are glimpses of a sun-kissed, more – dare we say it – content future in the acoustic and flirty ‘Sunset’ and world beats of ‘Blood and Butter’ – but to project any path for Polachek is futile. Wherever she goes next, you just follow.
- Release date: February 14, 2023
- Record label: Perpetual Novice
The Insidexpress is now on Telegram and Google News. Join us on Telegram and Google News, and stay updated.