For the final ten days of June, I’ll be counting down the ten best albums that fell within my radar during the first half of 2016. Each day, I’ll reveal the next album on the list along with an informal review. This will lead to July 1st, a major release day for albums, when I’ll post an updated version of my Most Anticipated Albums of 2016 list. Enjoy!
#6: Moth by Chairlift
Released January 22 by Columbia Records
I am a fan of pop music. At least, I try to be. It can be a hard task when most of the good pop music isn’t actually popular. It’s difficult to trace the history of when the definition of “pop” transitioned from the popular music of the day into its own genre. Perhaps that transition is what doomed “popular” music to be relegated to hit radio singles and the seasonal obsessions of music’s less dedicated fans. To be sure, good pop music and what’s popular do intersect often, (if not often enough), but this divide is what makes it so painful to hear a truly great pop record that sounds like back-to-back hits, while knowing none of the songs have a chance at hitting the Billboard Hot 100. Such shall be the fate for Moth, the sparkling, hook-drenched third album from indie pop duo Chairlift. Compared to their first two albums, multi-instrumentalists Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly have almost entirely shed the “indie” tag, yet what survives on Moth is the trait that should ideally coincide all true “indie” music: a music-loving sense of adventure. Wimberly, sharing the instrumental duties, shows no sign of losing his knack for crafting beautifully weird productions, while the duo also enlists a far greater range of guest musicians than before to fill out and color each song. As a vocalist, Polachek struts a nothing-is-off-limits mentality, from the chop-and-screwed samples and screams of “Polymorphing” to the spoken dialogue and all-over-the-place harmonies of “Moth to the Flame.” Throughout these incredible ten songs (even the lackluster “Unfinished Business”), she demonstrates her finely-honed vocal skills without getting in the way of a song’s core melodies and catchy choruses. If I could dwindle down the essential difference between bad pop and good pop to a single sentence, I’d say that bad pop treats verses and choruses as templates to fill, whereas good pop treats verses and choruses as a structure within which to explore. “Romeo,” for example, has a super catchy hook that’s unfamiliar, as if it’s never been sung in a pop song before, without being alienating or hard to single along to. Meanwhile, “Ch-Ching” utilizes anticlimactic dynamics that make it difficult to tell which part’s the chorus on a first listen, without sacrificing feel or fun. Truly, this album is a bottled capsule of fun. All these features translate even onto the ballad “Crying in Public,” which far outclasses past ballads such as Something‘s “Cool as a Fire.” Moth overflows with the joy and excitement Chairlift’s past albums had in spurts. My favorite song, “Show U Off,” describes how I feel about this record: “I could be a discreet lover, but I wanna show you off.” I want the world to enjoy Moth along with me. There are two types of people I can imagine loving this record, those who’d say, “I love pop, such as Chairlift…” and those who’d say, “I don’t usually listen to pop, but Chairlift…”
Check out “Romeo” on Youtube.
Read the review for album #7.