Singer, songwriter, producer, geese screamer: Caroline Polachek. She’s been at this for a while, though you’d be forgiven if you thought she was a newer face, as this latest phase of her career feels entirely separated from what came before. She got her start in the indie pop duo Chairlift with Patrick Wimberly, and while they never had a huge hit single or album chart topper they still managed to garner a fairly decent following that’s only garnered more listeners after their 2016 split (seriously go check out some Chairlift tracks if you haven’t). On top of Chairlift, Caroline also released an album under the name Ramona Lisa, an ambient project under the name CEP, and wrote and produced for artists on the side such as Superfruit, Solange, Travis Scott, and Beyoncé. It wasn’t until the late 2010’s, a whole decade after Chairlift’s debut record, that Polachek’s career as we now know it started to take form. As she started appearing more and more on tracks made by affiliates with PC Music like Danny Harle, Tommy Cash, and Charli XCX, it was clear that Caroline’s career as we knew it was taking a soft reset.
The result of that came in the form of Caroline’s “debut” record, “Pang”, an art pop record that was a critical success and found Caroline connecting with a new audience. “Pang” was one of my favorite albums of 2019, but if I had any complaints it would be that it was a little bit too much of a “mood” record for me, at least compared to her Chairlift days. It’s been more than three years since “Pang”, and because of that wait the hype for Polachek’s next album was growing and growing. It’s clear that Caroline and her main collaborator for this project, Danny Harle, we’re hard and work, and Caroline must not have been able to contain her excitement about her sophomore followup because she started dropping singles two years in advance - I heard three tracks in advance of being released back in December 2021. And with the wait growing longer and longer and each single being outstanding, it really felt like it would be impossible for Caroline’s second album to meet my expectations.
Well, I’m happy to say, “Desire, I Want to Turn Into You” did exactly that. And maybe even went above and beyond.
GOOOOOOOODDDDDDDDDDD THIS IS SUCH A GOOD POP ALBUM. This is such a good pop album. There’s a lot to be said about the production, the aesthetic, the creative left hooks, the musicianship, the performances, and everything in between, but if there’s one thing that I admire most about this record and want you to take away from this review is that “Desire, I Want to Turn Into You” is such a well crafted pop album. Caroline has been a songwriter and producer in this field for a while now as I mentioned above, and clearly those years haven’t gone to waste. She’s proven herself over the years to be aware of what she wants and how to pull it off, and this time the result is possibly her best collection of songs to date. And while these songs are super accessible and easy to love, there’s all these little moments that keep things fresh and unique that show so much artistic intent behind them - I think it’s this exact quality that causes many people to compare Polachek to Kate Bush. And there’s just so much about this record that embodies what people love about pop music. It’s well produced, catchy, full of ear worms and hooks, it’s filled with bops you can’t help but sing along to, emotional cuts that you just want to get lost in, and it feels so euphoric. Top to bottom, “Desire, I Want to Turn Into You” is just filled with great, irresistible pop music that, more than anything, just feels good to listen to.
Take opener “Welcome To My Island”, an absolutely killer opener that’s just filled with ear candy. The ethereal soprano vocals on the intro that feature a TWO OCTAVE jump, the “hey hey hey HEY” motif, the dancing groove of the electronic drums, the bleeping square synths, the vocoder effects, the soaring chorus, the gradual build of intensity during the bridge, that fuzzy guitar solo (god I love a good guitar solo in pop songs). This song is just exhilarating from beginning to end and I cannot stop smiling every time I hear it. Then you have moments like the very Imogen Heap inspired “Pretty In Possible” and “Bunny Is A Rider” that despite being very minimal production wise still manage to be catchy as hell and feel full. I also should shout out Caroline’s amazing vocal capabilities on tracks like the flamenco inspired “Sunset”, the moody “Crude Drawing of An Angel”, and the electronic bombast “I Believe” (which I should mention was dedicated to the late great SOPHIE), where she effortlessly glides from note to note. She brilliantly showcases her almost inhuman instrument with her melodies, they all have this inviting, hypnotic quality that’s so easy to get lost in.
This leads me into another aspect of this record, which is about how sensual this album is.. Many of these songs are about love, relationships, and, shocker, DESIRE, but they all feel like they’re coming from a very warm and blissful place. Usually songs about these themes feel more like calling out for someone to reciprocate your feelings, but “Desire, I Want to Turn Into You” often feels more like letting go and letting yourself feel those intense emotions. The best way I can describe it is like when you’re three months into a relationship - things still feel fresh, new, and exciting, but you’ve really gotten to know this person on a deeper level and are feeling something bigger than fun attraction. “Blood and Butter” feels like a cute night in just drinking wine, talking for hours, and kissing on the couch as Caroline sings about wanting to get closer to this other person, right before these otherworldly bagpipes come in I might add. There’s also the track “Hopedrunk Everlasting”, whose backing by a smoke detector, ambient keys, angelic synths, and balalaika sounds like you’re ascending to heaven, which is fitting because the song literally uses a tunnel as a metaphor “for both dying and falling deeply in love”. And then there’s the excellent closer “Billions”, whose hypnotic and flirty vocals, kaleidoscopic percussion, and mystical instrumental arrangement feels like staring at the person you love’s eyes, realizing how much warmth and care you have for the other person, and just letting yourself be embraced by it.
God…this is so good. This is so good. Caroline has been putting out and been featured on great music for years, but I feel like this album is the culmination of everything she’s done to its strongest degree. And the result is something sensual, exhilarating, heavenly, ethereal, hypnotic, sweet, cute, romantic, passionate, blissful. I can see why she released it on Valentine’s Day, because god damn this is such a good Valentine’s Day album, it literally feels like what falling in love feels like. What else can I say? Caroline Polachek fucking killed it. “Desire, I Want to Turn Into You” is a volcanic blast of intoxicating, euphoric emotion and a special record that will just melt your heart.