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Caroline Polachek – “Desire, I Want To Turn Into You” Review

Caroline Polachek has shifted her focus in her second solo album ‘Desire, I Want To Turn Into You’. No longer does she want to delve into introspective cuts about falling in love and the pain it brings. Instead, the former member of Chairlift has taken an outward-facing approach to her music, welcoming the panoramic embrace of the world around her, with all its influences, contradictions and chaos. While her 2019 album ‘Pang’ was about bottling everything she felt, ‘Desire…’ is about letting it flow free.

Polachek is known for her experimental approach to pop music, with a sound that pushes and pulls together a range of textures, all held together by her mercurial vocals. ‘Desire…’ is no exception, with a blend of trip-hop, garage beats, Spanish guitar music, traditional bagpipes, shimmering harp accents, and nods to everything from Twin Peaks, Madonna and Massive Attack. Some songs, such as ‘Bunny Is A Rider’ and ‘Welcome To My Island’, have a radio-ready, well-oiled slickness with catchy pop hooks, while others like ‘Hopedrunk Everasking’ and ‘Butterfly Net’ have a more abstract vision that feels like it was taken from unused demos.

The album is an uneven collection that might morph into something else upon revisiting it next week. However, some songs do stand out, such as ‘Pretty In Possible’, which borrows from Suzanne Vega’s ‘Tom’s Diner’ and Madonna’s ‘Frozen’ to create a beguiling creation. ‘I Believe’ nods to Polachek’s contemporary and collaborator Charli XCX with its firmly ‘00s garage beat, aiming to be a sweaty club classic in 2023.

Despite the apparent chaos, there is a sense of compatibility and openness that finds one another across genres and eras. Even in unexpected collaborations, such as ‘Fly To You’, featuring Grimes and Dido, the inimitable vocalists complete one another with ease. ‘Hopedrunk Everasking’ and ‘Smoke’ come closest to the magic of ‘Pang’, with the latter being a high-stakes lament full of desire and anxiety, at home in the club or a desperately lonely bedroom. ‘Sunset’ and ‘Blood and Butter’ provide glimpses of a sun-kissed and more content future.

Ultimately, it’s difficult to predict where Polachek will go next, but fans will undoubtedly follow her lead.

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