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Chairlift’s 2008 debut album Does You Inspire You? was an impressive if somewhat muddled first release. Swaying from from bubblegum electro-pop to moodier synth cuts, the overall impression of the Brooklyn band’s debut was “interesting” and perhaps most notable for ‘Bruises’, a cute song that featured in an iPod commercial that year.
Chairlift founding member Aaron Pfenning left in 2010 to pursue his solo project Rewards. Meanwhile vocalist Caroline Polachek strengthened her vocal chops in appearances with Girl Crisis, Guards, Holy Ghost! and Washed Out while Patrick Wimberly produced some Das Racist tracks.
Four years on, the duo return with Something, an infinitely superior album. Gone are the playful genre tryouts; in their place, Polachek and Wimberly stick with an ’80s inspired template of neon glowing synthesizers, AM radio pop hooks and arrangements reminiscent of the kind of driving song that you would do a Molly Ringwald dance to.
But this is a new decade and as such, the sounds we associate with ’80s are simply smart reference points for a hugely enjoyable pop record steeped in a very particular retro nostalgia (Retromania as Simon Reynolds has called it).
Polachek’s various collaborations and the intervening years have strengthened her vocal character and Wimberly has risen to the occasion too. Concentrating on a single time period for reference and you’re likely to be pigeonholed but Chairlift play the card so well that you just go with it. ‘I Belong In Your Arms’ is pure soundtrack montage gold, a chrome-plated Delorean speeding down a highway (and if it’s anything like ‘Sidewalk Safari’, it’s got it’s eyes on running you over), the only thing missing is a ‘We Built This City’ style impromptu radio announcer over the outro.
Where the music of the period relied on bombast and big drum sounds, Chairlift rely on tightly constructed rhythms and Polachek’s magnetising vocals filtered through taut modern production methods. Some of the singer’s best moments can be heard on the chorus of ‘Ghost Tonight’, the inner monologue of opener ‘Sidewalk Safari’, the wolf cries of ‘Amanaemonesia’ and the gentle ice-cold delivery of ‘Cool As Fire’. The arrangements meanwhile are shiny, brimming with bright vitality and unabashed in their emotion and embrace. There’s nothing confusing or swaying here, Chairlift MKII are the makings of something great.
Something is out now on Young Turks on February 13th in the UK and Ireland / Columbia in the North America now.
The live dance from the Boiler Room is very much worth a look for the comments at least – “my grandfather dancing better”: