Review: Chairlift – Moth



Columbia Records
Chairlift= Phantogram + Yacht

My first introduction to Chairlift was to their single, “I Belong in Your Arms,” off their 2012 release Something. The simplistic message and the catchy chorus was what drew me into Chairlift initially, and the dark, almost 80’s inspired electronics in some tracks held my interest. To say much has changed since then for Chairlift is an understatement: Moth has a much lighter, breezier and even jazzier sound than Something, and for lead vocalist Caroline Polachek, Moth is a much more vocally challenging album that shows off her rich voice. “Polymorphing” is a heavily arpeggiated song that takes Polachek’s voice to the higher part of her range and back down again with a markedly more R&B influence than their past work in not only the vocals but the instrumentation as well. The rhythm and feel of the song is definitely funk inspired—the brassy backups and jazz guitar are backed by a bouncing beat contributing to the already contagious feel of the song.

This is definitely mirrored in “Ch-Ching” and “Show U off,” which have a similar, upbeat feel and jazzy aesthetic. Equally catchy are “Moth to a Flame” and “Romeo,” which have more of a pop feel. “Romeo” is definitely the takeaway single of the album, a catchy upbeat love song based on the mythology of Atalanta, the runner who refused to marry unless her suitor could defeat her in a footrace, with the lyrics, “Hey Romeo/ Put on your running shoes/ I’m ready to go”. The quirky music video accompaniment features a very Karen O–esque Polachek running around New York’s Chinatown succumbing to  instrumentalist Patrick Wimberly‘s charms and taking off in his motorcycle, in a modern twist to the mythology.

The entire feel of the album is more optimistic and unconventional than Chairlift’s past work and highlight’s Polachek’s vocal capabilities in a way that she has not been able to highlight her range before. Unlike Something, Moth is definitely more of a cheerful album, and a departure from the subtle dark influences of Something, and the ’80s electronic influence is almost completely missing in Moth altogether. Though normally this would bother me, the jazz and funk infusion is refreshing enough to welcome the change. That being said, the two albums feel as though they came from the same act—Moth simply feels like an evolution of Something that incorporates more musical styles and influences. Even more somber songs such as “Crying in Public” and “Unfinished Business” are somewhat lighthearted, and in “Ottawa to Osaka,” there is an infusion of Japanese influenced sound-effects and Japanese to break up the monotony. In a way, this takes Chairlift from sounding like other acts like Phantogram and elevates them to a more unique status due to their use of jazz-inspired intricacies, funky rhythms, and the fact that they’re willing to take risks. Ultimately Chairlift stretches the expectation of what pop music is and what it can be, infusing elements of jazz and electronic music in each track while still giving a wide array of emotions in each piece —Ali Shimkus