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Caroline Polachek - Pang (Album Review)

Tuesday, 22 October 2019 Written by Jacob Brookman

As co-founder of Colorado band Chairlift (with Aaron Pfenning), Caroline Polachek released three records of tidy and likeable synth-pop, before striking out on her own with solo albums under stage names Rona Lisa and CEP.

Her new LP—the first released under her birth name—represents an artist who appears more confident and direct than ever, with 14 songs of terse, punchy pop. It’s well put together music that really impresses on the first listen.

There are several standout tracks. So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings is one, and also features an excellent video co-directed by Polachek with Matt Copson. The song itself revolves around a looped vocal motif that is angelic yet chugging, giving the track a Suzanne Vega vibe that feels honest but still highly polished. 

The chorus is superb, melding Polachek’s skillful storytelling with emotional dynamism and arrangement nous. It’s a very satisfying old school single that deserves to score bucketloads of radioplay.

There is also the excellent title track, which melds a bleeping motif with cumbia beats and smashy snares. It builds with great patience, and as with much of the album, shows off Polachek’s key skill—her highly trained singing—with great aplomb. 

There are problems afoot, though. Because electropop is cheap to produce (you don’t necessarily need to employ a full band) it has dominated the charts for nearly a decade at this stage. The result is that despite Polachek’s rare talent, there is actually quite a lot of similar music out there. 

And it doesn’t take long to identify work in the same space with better songwriting and more interesting presentation” La Roux, Susanne Sundfør and Jenny Hval would be three examples. Haim might be another.

This is likely no problem for Polachek’s audience, who may peg their love of her music to their musical and emotional awakening in the late ‘00s. But sometimes with pop singers, once you realise that you have heard something more vivid and fantastical, it can be very difficult to unhear it.

Caroline Polachek Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed October 30 2019 - LONDON Hoxton Hall

Click here to compare & buy Caroline Polachek Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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