A post-breakup record that mostly makes do with sounding foxy as hell.
Alex Denney 2012-01-11
Touting the same blend of 1980s synth-pop and Aquarian kitsch that propelled MGMT and Empire of the Sun towards the top of the charts in 2008, Chairlift stalled halfway up the banister to success with their debut of the same year, Does You Inspire You. Ironically, it was the nouveau-new age zealots at Apple that gave the Brooklyn-based group their biggest break to date, when first single Bruises was used to advertise the iPod Nano – an apposite choice of bedfellow, since the record’s genre-flipping felt a little too flimsy; too knowing to really linger in the memory.
In the four-year downtime since Does You..., plenty’s changed on Planet Chairlift. Aaron Pfenning, who co-founded the group with girlfriend Caroline Polachek, quit the band after their relationship hit the rocks in 2010, threatening legal action when remaining members Polachek and Patrick Wimberly opted to soldier on under the moniker. An agreement between the three was eventually reached outside of court, clearing the way for a belated second album to surface.
Far from being the expected hook-shy mope, however, Something does what so many of us fail to do when romantic endeavours go arse-over-tit. It offers a confident, head-held-high reappraisal of the band’s MO, with the newly-promoted Wimberly a more than capable foil for Polachek’s songwriting smarts.
Opener Sidewalk Safari’s predatory, twisting synths and assertion that "All of the bones in your body are in way too few pieces for me / Time to do something about it, if you know what I mean" suggest a recriminatory tone’s in the offing, but prove something of a red herring in the context of a post-breakup record that mostly makes do with sounding foxy as hell. Wrong Opinion hits a strident pop groove replete with flashy, Buckingham-esque touches in the arrangement, while über-lithe single Amanaemonesia sounds like The Police sprinkled with silver dust, and is perhaps their most fully realised moment to date.
Elsewhere and tracks like I Belong in Your Arms and Ghost Tonight sound lean and committed in a way that easily outflanks the occasional goofiness of Does You..., and boast terrific pop vocals from Polachek, who it’s even possible to imagine as a latter-day Deborah Harry at times.
The band are perhaps less convincing when the pace is allowed to drop – though the unusually lovelorn Cool as a Fire does a pretty convincing middle ground between Sade and Christine McVie – and the slick revivalist template remains broadly the same. But, in producing a focussed follow-up that completely transcends its litigious backstory, Chairlift have summoned a watertight case for the defence with Something.