Chairlift’s sophomore album, Something, promised changes. The group lost founding member Aaron Pfenning after a break-up with singer Caroline Polachek. Then, there was the expectations – both positive and negative – that come with signing with a major label (Columbia) following their successful debut album, Does You Inspire You.
But from the earliest moments through nearly the entire length of Something, Chairlift’s exuberance shines brightly like neon, signifying all of the changes made were positive ones.
Album opener “Sidewalk Safari” showcases Chairlift’s strongest assets, namely the exotic production from Patrick Wimberly and Polachek’s fetching vocals. Their sound is thankfully familiar. They are still dredging murky, tight leather hooks from the sonic wasteland of the 1980s and dancing while they do it.
This art-pop approach works with mostly positive results. After the strong first cut, it stumbles haphazardly and needlessly over a digital xylophone on the second track “Wrong Opinion”, but thankfully these missteps are few and far between. (The only other slip ignominious enough to mention is the over-produced, hyper-literal mise-en-scene found on album closer “Guilty As Charged”.)
Wimberly, taking on an enormous task in terms of production, instrumentation and vocals, successfully and consistently keeps the scenery interesting. Plus, Polachek’s voice manages to allure without reeking of perfume and booze. She even gets away with some Blondie-esque rap-singing. Together, it’s a sometimes dizzying combination, and things really get great when the duo work in pretension-free plurality.
They let their alt-haircuts blow from a drop-top on “I Belong In Your Arms”. It has the makes of a formulaic ode, but in Chairlift’s hands, it becomes borderline triumphant. If they were shooting for a place in an ’80s canon, this track succeeds exceedingly well.
On “Ghost Tonight”, Chairlift dive into an eerie, atmospheric beat, that sounds like it came from a group who got their start composing music for haunted houses – which it did. The group also shines particularly bright on “Take It Out On Me” and “Amanaemonesia”, two songs with playlist staying power.
Something is a fun, well-formed effort that ascends above their debut album and avoids most sophomoric pitfalls. Credit addition by subtraction, support from a proper label, or simply finding a dynamic that works best for all parties, but regardless of how it happened, Chairlift is a band befitting its name, as they are a pair on the rise.