On ‘Desire’, Polachek wants to show you all the cool sounds she’s found.
Credit: Sony Music / The Orchard
Polachek’s third studio album doesn’t have the substance to stick around, but her talent for eclectic pop musicality is stronger than ever.
In this glorious era of Pop we get the great pleasure of basking in, Caroline Polachek brings an especially eclectic offering. A delightful blend of quirkiness and sexiness, sounds delivered with a wicked intelligence, creating something that satisfies totally. Her third studio album, dropped on Valentines Day this year, stretches her style further than ever before. Polachek is the master of her sounds, her compositions at the whim of her intentions.
She introduces her compositions slowly. Sometimes they begin with a vocal or a small part of the main melody. Elements build around it, giving us a preview of where it might go. On some occasions it’s Trip Hop, other times it’s more Break Beat, and sometimes it’s down right Electronica. The track builds, emerging in its full form, her pallid voice guiding us through the wonders she wants to show us. Even if most of the cuts here follow the same format, the broad range of styles covered across the record keeps things interesting.
“Despite that outstanding album cover, Polachek doesn’t inspire as much as I wish she would.”
But not enough to be truly memorable, however. Desire doesn’t linger around in your head as much as it ought to, even if there are tracks on here I properly love. Despite that outstanding album cover, Polachek doesn’t inspire as much as I wish she would. She certainly fills us in on her feelings throughout, but I was never quite able to connect with them. The form is often the most impressive part of the record, no doubt something that is enjoyable on the stronger cuts, but it isn’t enough to cover up for a lack of depth.
It’s a shame when there seems to be so much potential. That album cover really is outstanding, a scene that effuses a nineties cool. Just look at that old Underground train setting; it looks like it came straight out of the video for Suede’s ‘Saturday Night’. Even the shades of lighting looks authentic, let alone the clothes and those gorgeous Walkman headphones. Dropping the album on Valentines Day should automatically encourage this to feel like something special.
Luckily, there is a lot of enjoyment to be found still in those stronger cuts. She possesses an incredible mastery of the elements of her songs, everything handled with a deft touch. When they come together, it can be nothing short of phenomenal. The smallest of details are used to the greatest of impacts – just listen to those drums on ‘Bunny Is A Rider’, or that easy-breezy main melody on ‘Smoke’ that weaves its way into every element of the song.
“Everything on Desire warms you up with a sense of satisfaction. The melodies hit just right. The songs progress in wonderfully satisfying ways.”
It’s here that album works best. Polachek treats her songwriting with exhibitionary quality, showing off the cool sounds and influences she’s discovered since we last heard from her. If it doesn’t linger in your mind, then it can’t be denied that her talent to meld a buffet’s worth of picks from the annals of pop history is worth sticking around for.
Everything on Desire warms you up with a sense of satisfaction. The melodies hit just right. The songs progress in wonderfully satisfying ways. Even though not everything hits as hard as you might wish, it’s difficult to find anything that isn’t enjoyable. Polachek’s ability to combine influences into something distinctly her doesn’t make up for a lack of substance underneath, but it makes for some of the best Pop cuts we’ll get this year no doubt.