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Something Emily Mackay , January 25th, 2012 13:57

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You can really read someone's character in how they respond to life's little setbacks. You might have wondered how Chairlift's Caroline Polachek, the vestal virgin of 'Planet Health', the handstand-tumbling ingenue of 'Bruises' might weather the departure of her boyfriend and Chairlift co-founder Aaron Pfenning before the writing of their second album. Would she weep? Would she crumble?

Let's have a listen to the opening track, 'Sidewalk Safari', then: "Not too good with guns / Poison seems old-fashioned... but I do know how to drive a car faster than a man can RUUUUUN!” Evidently she managed to pick herself back up again, then. 'Something' isn't though, is an album of hate-filled breakup vengeance. What it is is the sound of Polachek and remaining Chairlifter Patrick Wimberly setting their jaw, picking up their pride and becoming stronger than before. From the war dance of twisted synths and sharp itchy drums that is that opener to the silky, slow-wallowing beauty of the closing 'Guilty As Charged', it's a brilliantly focused, glittering and energetic classy pop album that you'd never have expected from the authors of the disparate, overly quirky 'Does You Inspire You'.

Where as a trio, the Brooklyn crew seemed to feel the need to mar the beauty of their pop songs with some kind of ironic nod, as on 'Evident Utensil' where Pfenning's comedically gruff backing vocals made him the Einar Orn to Polachek's Bjork, now, the likes of the Talk Talk-tinged bell-clanging 'Wrong Opinion', a glorious intersection between Beach House and Telepathe is allowed to fly free. The album's been produced by Hot Chip and La Roux man Dan Carey and shares a light and clarity and melody with those bands' best moments. 'I Belong In Your Arms' is one of the best choruses heard so far this year, a giddy, pop-Cure-meet-the Blue Nile in heaven headrush of happy heartsickness. And where on 'Does You Inspire You' Polachek's fur coat of a voice sometimes seemed over-affected or sidelined, on the likes of the heady, p ained 'TakeIt Out On Me' and the small-hours sorrow of 'Cool As A Fire' it takes control, strong and beautiful.

Only 'Amanaemonoeasia' leans a little bit too much towards their old wackiness, but it's still a fine enough, edgy romp of a thing. 'Something' is an unexpected triumph, then, and proof that whatever doesn't kill hipster synthpop bands makes them stronger. Best of all, no ex-boyfriends or snarky critics had to be harmed in the making of this record. Hang on... did you hear an engine revving just then?

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Jan 25, 2012 10:21pm

Spot on review. Not really being a fan of album no.1, flicked this on this morning and gave it a whirl. Some great, fun pop tunes on this. Would be good to see this getting some airplay.

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Jan 26, 2012 10:34pm

Funny, personally I think Amanaemonoeasia is the best tune on the record. Some of the other stuff is kind of lame in an adult contemporary kind of way. Met Before & Sidewalk are good songs and Turning is one of the better Cocteau Twins/4AD bites I've heard in a very long time. Not feeling Belong in your Arms at all. Chorus of the year? lol.

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Jan 27, 2012 2:12pm

Always thought 'Planet Health' was a great song.
Something about 'Something' seems painfully 'on trend', as if it is so late 80's/early 90's that it's weirdly disposable.
But regardless, I have great respect for their sense of musical fun - and they clearly have talent/strength.
They will definitely do some really good albums I feel

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Jan 28, 2012 10:42pm

I'm not totally sold on this band yet, they have some glorious moments and some bland ones too. I'd generally class their better stuff as the songs which the reviewer classes as "overly quirky" or "wacky". Those just seem to sparkle a bit more, and are humourous without being too arch or ironic. I think the sugarcubes reference is quite relevant, though I wonder if they could be put down with the same "too quirky" argument? What about other bands who use humour and idiosyncratic instrumentation such as Boredoms or Butthole Surfers?

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