Desire, I Want to Turn Into You
ABOVE THE CURRENT
The last 20 years have been a whirlwind for Caroline Polachek as she graduated from indie darling as one half of the electro-pop duo Chairlift to writing songs for Beyoncé, dabbling in ambient music for a spell before settling into avant-pop stardom. She continues to write songs dripping with raw emotions which often sound so otherworldly that first listens can be slippery to describe in any tangible way, filled as they are like a bricolage or Cocteau Twins composition. Her songs are bursting with maximalist pop charms, and Desire, I Want to Turn Into You continues this journey of rediscovering the power of desire.
Opening Calypso track “Welcome to My Island” is a postcard from the edge of her emotional universe (and from her time near the Mediterranean) and a perfect introduction to her continuing superhero-speed approach to pop music. Its music video in particular is a showcase for the guitar-pop track. Directed by Polachek and her partner, artist Matt Copson, it shows her knocking sperm out of the way as she darts across a construction site and vomits coffee in front of a volcano. “Welcome to My Island” is par for the course for Caroline Polachek’s discography so far—you really never know what to expect from each song.
Her debut album under her own name, 2019’s Pang, was always in motion, occasionally to a fault. There are inklings of those issues as Desire flits between elements of electronic, pop, rock, trip-hop, and various other globally sourced styles like a hyperactive hummingbird. Early previews such as “Bunny Is a Rider” and “Blood and Butter” ground the record with strong pop melodies regardless of the window dressing framing them, and the lyrics deal with new loves, family deaths, and radical partnerships in faraway lands. The strumming island rhythms of “Sunset” are perfect for whisking away the listener even when reality is a daily dragging force. Polachek sings about an all-encompassing romance that takes over the mind and body being the only way to survive in this new and dangerous world: “And in your arms a warm horizon / Don’t look back / Let’s ride away.”
Polachek also gets really far out on her ’90s-inspired genre branches on these 12 tracks. The synth-pop swirl of “Pretty in Possible,” the tabla-flecked “Billions,” the acrobatic breakbeat-pop of “I Believe,” and the Grimes- and Dido-featuring trip-hop odyssey “Fly to You” all point back to a pop artist not afraid to take some wild swings on her second album for her given name. The highs are generously sprinkled across the album, and the less compelling tracks in the back half (“Hopedrunk Everasking” and “Butterfly Net”) feel more like short diversions before the next wild bend in a rushing and effervescent rollercoaster of pop experiments. Desire, I Want to Turn Into You is a handcrafted Valentine’s Day gift you never expect: it’s a little weird, direct, somewhat confrontational, and utterly original.