After Chairlift’s previous album ‘Something’ with its heavy 80s synth-pop influences – the spiky Sidewalk Safari and dreamy I Belong In Your Arms especially – it’s surprising that the most striking track on new album ‘Moth’ is a ballad. And a really beautiful, delicate one at that. “Sorry I’m crying in public” sings Caroline Polachek in an apologetic, wispy falsetto, “I’m falling for you”. It’s a song about the helplessness of love and feeling, where falling for someone causes a “scene on the train”. These aren’t tears of joy, and it’s all underpinned by gently shuffling percussion and softly slapped bass in Patrick Wimberly's production. For anyone who’s ever had an emotional train journey, this is for you.
Elsewhere, ‘Moth’ delivers wonderfully off-kilter pop. The staccato beats of Romeo build towards a dreamily irresistible chorus as Polachek, inspired by Greek mythology, mellifluously sings of a lover, whilst Ch-Ching pairs brass stabs with R&B rhythms that’s exemplary of Chairlift’s willingness to experiment with genres. That extends to the jazz influence of Polymorphing, the oriental colours of Ottawa to Osaka, and the pure dance-pop banger brilliance of Moth to the Flame on which she laments the inescapable pull of a lover ("he's that kind of man mama"). Having worked with Beyoncé on her last album, it seems that her pop influence has rubbed off on the duo just as much as their quirky charm aided her return.
All this fluttering between genres, though, makes Chairlift quite difficult to pin down. Operating in a middle ground between pop and alternative, they more often than not hit the jackpot. But there are misses here: No Such Thing as Illusion, at six and a half minutes long, is about six and a half minutes too long, and for much of the album you wish the hooks were just a little bit stronger and a little further removed from their previous work.
Yet ‘Moth’ still shimmers with slick polish, the sound of an underground act flying closer to the light of stardom, Polachek’s soft vocals singing catchy hooks that hover over Wimberly's beguiling production. And for all their idiosyncratic peculiarities, they sure know how to deliver a tearjerking ballad – bring some tissues.
* Crying in Public
* Moth to the Flame
Listen: ‘Moth’ is available now.