Reviewed by: Ziggy Merritt
Another four years has separated the release of a new album from pop auteurs Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly, otherwise known as Chairlift. In that time Polachek herself has had an eventful few years with the release of her solo debut under the name Ramona Lisa and her recent marriage to artist Ian Drennan. On Moth some of those events, purposeful or otherwise, appear to have influenced the composition resulting in a reflective if intricately textured album.
Like their sophomore release, Something, Moth is layered with minimal bites of percussion, woodwinds, sax, and synthesizer that all find cohesion and purpose within their respective tracks. Polachek’s vocals are in particular fine form from the start with the tropical-flavored, “Look Up.” Murmuring synths, shouts, and Polachek’s impressive range start things off well as they transition into the smooth soul of “Polymorphing.”
It’s only upon the introduction of “Romeo” and “Ch-Ching” that the most noticeable change in Polachek and Wimberly can be picked out: confidence. Unlike Something, which often flirted with an insecurity perhaps informed by the departure of co-founder, Aaron Pfenning, the two lead singles from Moth are much more aggressive and assured than anything they’ve released in the past. In both, the production is informed by hip-hop and trip-hop textures that at once excite and take the risks that the modern face of Chairlift has been known for.
As transformative as these tracks are, the vulnerable side of Moth is well expressed in the tear-jerker of “Crying in Public.” The airy layering of dreamy electronics along with a minimal bass line aid the range and directness of the vocals, all of which are well expressed within the plaintive lyrics: “Like the peach you split open/With two thumbs/I’m the half without a stone/And my heart is a hollow/With a space for your own/Or whatever you want to do with it.”
With the exception of “Moth To The Flame”, 2016’s latest contender for what might become the most undeniably catchy and remixed track of the year, much of the back half of Moth does not stimulate as well as everything else present here. “Ottawa to Osaka” is the big culprit with a marked sleepiness that, while nowhere near the range of mediocrity, fails to live up to the bold and earnest delivery of Moth’s first half. This said the four year wait for this latest album lived up to the months of hype that preceded its release. Moth stands out as the confident next chapter in the metamorphosis of Chairlift, giving the album’s own title a well-deserved purpose.