Desire, I Want To Turn into You
Who is Caroline Polachek? For an artist four albums into her career she seems to evade any concrete labels regarding her music. Throughout 'Desire, I Want to Turn into You' Polachek effortlessly moves through genre as she draws upon her early career in the indie-pop duo Chairlift, her close collaboration and friendship with artists like Danny L Harle and A.G Cook who are pivotal to the Hyper pop and PC music scene, and a variety of different musical influences ranging from 2000s radio pop to shimmering, dreamy ballads. She has this ambiguity to her that allows her to flow through all these sounds and yet there is such defined nature to Polachek’s approach to these genres that it feels like not one but her could do it.
A causal listener of Polachek is most likely to only really be familiar with her biggest song ‘So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings’, a synth-pop song that feels as though it belongs on the soundtrack of a 1980s teen movie. And whilst this is a style that Polachek leaves traces of on 'Desire, I Want to Turn into You' she also allows herself to push further and see where her inspirations drive her sound. The song ‘Sunset’ is built around a Spanish guitar pattern and percussion that create an atmosphere similar to the ones that Rosalía would have created earlier in her career. The opening track ‘Welcome to my Island’ alternates between her soaring vocals at the centre, beginning the song with her impassioned, melodic cries, and the relatively laid-back delivery that characterise the verses as Polachek repeats the lines “welcome to my island/hope you like me/you ain’t leaving”. Throughout the album, Polachek also makes great use of the electronic influences around her. ‘Billions’ and ‘Smoke’ are where the influence of producer Danny L Harle is the most overt as they are built around stuttering, repeating drums, powerful synth patterns, and heavily distorted vocals that are signatures of his work.
However, whilst the sonic influences of Polachek may be hard to pin down, she is very clear about her lyrical preoccupations. She spends the album picking over the different forms of love that have fallen in and out of her life. It’s almost perfect that the album was released on Valentine's Day as Polachek is able to articulate the multitudes of emotions that come along with love. On ‘Bunny Is a Rider’ she details the fun in being detached and ephemeral in love as a “satellite can’t find her/ no sympathy” but holds a certain awareness that this is a state that she cannot maintain forever. ‘Blood and Butter’ explore how her infatuation with a lover can almost verge on gruesome as she wants to get “closer than your new tattoo” and “Paint the picture/In blood and butter/Holy water/ Fire in the sky”. Polachek is aware that there is a darkness to the love she has but, instead of turning away, she runs towards it, merging Biblical imagery with beauty and violence - all with the end goal of losing herself in love and desire. These themes even exist within the title Desire, I Want to Turn into You which suggests that within Polachek there is a desire to entirely lose herself in the lovers in her life and transcend the boundaries around her but a slight inability for her to fully do it.
Whilst 'Desire, I Want to Turn into You' can be a difficult album to appreciate or fully understand on the first few listens it soon reveals itself as a complex, intriguing exploration of love set against a hectic and ever-changing world. Even though Polachek is able to change her inspirations and musical tendencies at whim- very few artists would place a stripped-back song like ‘Crude Drawings Of An Angel’ on an album that features a collaboration with Grimes and Dido-she is undoubtedly one of the leading figures in music at the moment. We are only just getting to glimpse the range of her talents and possibilities as an artist.