Since the release of its debut album, Does You Inspire You, in 2008, a couple of things have happened to Chairlift. Founding member, Aaron Pfenning, has left to pursue other interests. And the band, now just Caroline Polacheck and Patrick Wimberly, have acquired an inspired confidence and sleek new sound.
As good as Does You Inspire You was, many of the songs were clunky and awkward, if not lyrically, then in arrangement and execution, sometimes both. But the last thing you could say about Something is that it is ‘clunky’. In fact, most of the songs are so sprightly they literally bounce out of the speakers.
Early single, Amanaemonesia, provided a preview of this new direction. With its funky bass-line, busy vocal layers and soaring chorus, the song probably would have been a hit if its title had been a little easier to spell or pronounce. And whereas the arrangements on Does You Inspire You were rudimentary, the sound of this track is bubbling with invention.
Amanaemonesia is one of the highlights of Something, but it has plenty of fine company. Opening track, Sidewalk Safari, is as good as they come, with its squiggly synth and shuffling rhythm, the song is so catchy you forget the fact that it’s about trying to run someone down with a car.
When songs sound as effortless as these, you know something is going right for a band. Track three, I Belong In Your Arms, shimmers and skips, with gorgeous melodies and another glorious chorus.
Cause the world goes
On without us
It doesn’t matter what we do
All silhouettes with no regrets
When I’m melting into you
I belong in your arms
Lyrically, Something avoids the quirky topical concerns of the first album (health, environment, earwigs) and concentrates on that perennial favourite – love. If the song isn’t celebrating love, it’s about the lack of love, or the difficulties of love. But for the most part, the band has enough verve and personality to pull it off.
Another highlight is second single, Met Before. Unlike most of the tracks on Something, the vocals are way back in the mix, beneath layers of big 80s synths and a thumping Motown beat.
Curiously, after a long sequence of up-tempo tracks, the album ends with three slower songs. They are all decent tunes, but after such a dizzy string of dance treats, it can’t help but sound like an anti-climax.
The second of these, Turning, is mainly instrumental, a Cocteau-like affair of atmosphere and suggestion. While final track, Guilty As Charged, chugs and coughs beneath Polacheck’s deceptively sweet-sounding tale of paranoia and desire.
The album, then, is a success. Dripping with hooks, fine melodies and inventive arrangements, the album would have been a sure-fire hit if released in 1983. The unfortunate thing about today’s fragmented music world is that many people won’t get to hear it.
But I’ve given you a tip, so check it out – Something is something else.