Saturday, 27 July 2019

Caroline Polachek - Parachute


For over 10 years, Caroline Polachek was the singer for synth-pop outfit Chairlift. Beyond that role, she spent years quietly making a name for herself as a talented songwriter. Her eye-opening raft of songwriting credits include collaborations with: Beyoncé, Travis Scott, Beach Fossils, and Charli XCX, among others. She has been widely featured as a singer, including on albums by Blood Orange, Washed Out, and SBTRK.

Now she is preparing to release Pang - her first solo album under her own name. Two singles have been released so far - “Parachute” and “Ocean of Tears”. After spending time working with giants and catching an oblique corner of the spotlight, here Polachek emerges fully formed, a pop artist with a singular sound. Phantoms of collaborators – like Charli XCX – and of others she presumably hasn’t encountered – Bjork(?) – resound in these tracks, but Polachek’s sound is by no means reducible to such influences.

“Parachute” excites me most. Devoid of percussion, it is a ballad that sees Polachek taking risks, slowly advancing through a lengthy, complex melody. Nobody would call the melody ‘catchy’; in fact, it takes so long cycle back around that you have a slight sense of dislocation, as though each new moment is entirely new, only bound to what came before by a thin, transparent tether. You won’t be surprised by her press-release statement that when she wrote the melody she was “unintentionally retelling a dream [she’d] been shaken by”.

Opening with with spare synths, the ballad slowly, assuredly builds in its intensity. Her vocals are characterized by off-kilter leaps, and by rapid runs that flit from note-to-note with such pace that they lend an inorganic feeling. Her producer Danny L Harle has also collaborated with SOPHIE (in writing for Superfruit), and the vocal production in these runs gives off a SOPHIE-esque twinkle, but this dissipates in the prevailing impression of sincerity; Polachek’s dreams are not that plastic. Treading the difficult line between the emotive and the artificial, Polachek does not stumble, and as the melody reaches its peak, we are pulled towards the sky. Gravity flips. We soar skywards in a weather balloon.

With this unique and daring piece of avant-garde pop balladry, I am waiting in anticipation for the album.

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