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Chairlift apply the Eighties gloss

With an accomplished second album from the Brooklyn duo

Hazel Sheffield | January/February 2012

“Something” is a vague title for a carefully thought-out record. This is the second album from Chairlift, an art-school duo from Brooklyn comprising Caroline Polachek (above) and Patrick Wimberly. It expresses their calculated opposition to what they call “music on steroids”. Informed by their backgrounds—Polachek studied art at New York University, and Wimberly learned jazz in Colorado—the pair turn their backs on modern pop’s full-throttle production and tinny compression. They have found a third way, which leads back to the roomy recordings of the French new-wavers Indochine and the glossy finish of Eighties chart-toppers like Tears For Fears and A-Ha.

Few would have expected such an accomplished follow-up to Chairlift’s cluttered 2008 debut, which reached the mainstream only when a track called “Bruises” featured in an iPod Nano advert. This time they achieve a dazzling coherence by sticking to uniform sounds. “Sidewalk Safari” marries drum machines and handclaps in the line “I’m going to hunt you down”, while “I Belong in Your Arms” is an updated “Take on Me”, with Polachek’s vocal soaring into a galaxy of twinkling synthesisers. 

In the three years between albums, Chairlift fell for the formality of Eighties pop and created a visual aesthetic to match. On the video for the single “Amanaemonesia”, Polachek pours herself into a green Lycra catsuit and performs a dance routine inspired by Maurice Béjart, which took her three months of intensive ballet training. The result, like the whole album, is both refreshing and compelling. ~ Hazel Sheffield

Something is released in Europe (Young Turks) January 23rd, in America (Columbia) January 24th

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