Pop music fans have been on the edge of their seats for nearly four years, patiently awaiting the follow-up to Caroline Polachek’s debut album Pang. The Chairlift frontwoman made waves in 2019 with her crystalline vocals and nonconformist approach to songwriting. Combining her folk background with hyper-synthesized electronic production, Polachek proved to be one of the most promising artists the modern music ecosystem has seen in recent years.
Following a two-year rollout of singles, with “Bunny is a Rider” released in summer 2021, Polachek’s sophomore record, Desire, I Want to Turn Into You, has cemented her position as a pioneering solo act. Overflowing with genius-level musicality and inquiry into feminine desire, the LP intellectually stimulates yet remains entertaining and danceable — well worth the lengthy wait.
“Bunny is a Rider,” a fitting introduction to the record that was to come, tells a whimsical story of a woman (Bunny) escaping the monotony of her daily life. In an interview on Charli XCX’s podcast “Best Song Ever,” the singer describes the song as “an independence fantasy.” With the refrain “Bunny is a Rider/ Satellite can’t find her/ No sympathy” placed atop an addictive bassline, Polachek rejects patriarchal expectations of female domesticity, all while providing a club-ready summertime track. The inaugural single flawlessly draws listeners into Bunny’s world, offering audiences a peak into the album’s complexities.
“Sunset” is an apparent sequel to the escapist lead single. Backed by melodic Spanish folk guitars, Polachek sings of newfound love, her life’s misconceptions and hope for a new tomorrow. The song masterfully juxtaposes acoustic instrumentation with UK producer Sega Bodega’s archetypal experimental electronic stylings. Walking the line between approachable and divisive, Polachek showcases her unmatched ability to genre-bend and appeal to wide swaths of audiences.
Every one of the LP’s singles was integral to its fruition. “Welcome to My Island” is a lyrical masterpiece and vocal feat, granting the record its all-encompassing title. “Blood and Butter” tells a familiar story of star-crossed lovers and spotlights a descent into codependency alongside an earworm-inducing chorus (“Look how I forget who I was/ Before I was the way I am with you”). The album’s closer, “Billions,” paints an uncanny picture of abundance, presenting listeners with a poetic dissection of an artist’s duality (“Psycho, priceless/ Good in a crisis/ Working the angles/ Oh, billions”). To say that Polachek spoiled her fans throughout the record’s rollout would be an understatement.
Although the singles are all near-perfect depictions of Polachek’s unbounded artistic capacity, almost all of the LP’s tracklist shines in its own right. From the Oasis-inspired acoustic guitar in “Butterfly Net” to the breakbeat backing of “Pretty In Possible,” the record envelops its listeners in an endless supply of meticulous detail.
“Fly to You” is the only low point of the album. Featuring Grimes and Dido, expectations for the collaboration were understandably high, but the song feels one-note and disjointed. The track’s clear potential — especially in moments when the three artists’ voices intertwine — makes its lackluster payoff even more unsatisfying. Lacking the dynamic variation of its neighbors and featuring a melody that is blah at best, “Fly to You” stands out like a sore thumb in an otherwise brilliant record.
Despite one disappointing track, Polachek’s latest album impeccably illustrates her ever-expanding musical prowess. Stylish yet shamelessly genuine, the LP presents listeners with intriguing storylines, societal critique and, most importantly, unabashed danceability. From its abstract lyricism to its engulfing production, Desire, I Want to Turn Into You is well worth a listen and is Polachek’s most impressive work to date.