Caroline Polachek – “Desire, I Want to Turn into You” review: Lingering sounds
On her second album, Caroline Polachek gives us an eclectic voyage, full of various music directions and nostalgic lyrics. The 37-year-old artist knows how to adorn her music by deriving from a myriad of genres – her record has a lot of zest, but it also needs some time to be fully appreciated.
Words by Jan Tracz
There are ballads (slow, yet tempting I Believe), but there are sing-along anthem tunes too (benign and sweet, but not-too-sweet Smoke); there is ongoing, post-break-up despair, but Caroline captures the lover’s levity at the same time; if it had been poetry, it would have consisted of poems (or even letters?) written to someone our artist seeks to be in the future: less insecure, less heartbroken, less herself, but more herself in a new version, if one sees the main difference (so it is not unworthy of Taylor Swift’s heart-breaking storytelling).
All these factors and dichotomies are part of Caroline Polachek’s newest, impassioned album, titled Desire, I Want to Turn into You. On her twelve-track record, Polachek aims to tell her own personal story through symbols, metaphors and allegories; through anger and sadness, through objectivity and heartfelt subjectivity. It’s like reading the thoughts of an infatuated lover, although she, Polachek, is no longer in love. It’s hard to tell if the narrator’s reflections take place before or after the most important relationship of her life. It’s even harder to tell if there was any love affair in the first place. But, after all, one thing is certain: it is really easy to feel something while listening to Caroline’s latest musical notebook.
Caroline Polachek (fot. Aidan Zamiri)
No one knows the exact moment when Desire, I Want to Turn into You ensnares listeners with its honest songwriting. There is some romance, even a sense of a primal feeling on Welcome to My Island when Polachek begs with a hint of command: Welcome to my island/See the palm trees wave in the wind/Welcome to my island/Hope you like me, you ain’t leavin’; or there is a motive for fighting for the already-lost-relationship on Butterfly Net, where she uses the eponymous “net” as a metaphor of trying to hold on to something that does not anymore. We hear the despair in her sensuous voice when she sings the chorus like this: There you were/With your mirror/Shining the world all over me/There I was/With my butterfly net/Trying to catch your light.
Yet, her tour de force is – while having previously mentioned tracks in mind – Sunset, a blissful track, even ethereal, with its encroaching choruses and Polachek’s faultless vocals. It’s a juncture of electropop sounds and elaborate, idyllic Spanish guitars, thus the effect is an irresistible tune that cannot be gotten out of the listener’s head. Besides, it abruptly elicits a nostalgia-like feeling, a yearning for Spanish music, or narrow pathways and alleys in Greek, climatic cities. To paraphrase Stephen Colbert’s words, who once called U2’s One a “too perfect of a song,” Polachek’s Sunset is another piece belonging to the category of being just too impeccable.
Although the genre inspirations differ, they are consonant with each other – one can tell that Caroline Polachek is conducting her art-pop orchestra. Magic is already there (her album has its own aura), musical splendour (not exceeding the kitsch’s border) is also tangible, so the only thing you need is time and patience. Desire, I Want to Turn into You is not an album that will instantly engulf listeners with its epic form. But, after quite a few listenings, it becomes intoxicating, just like desire in a human body.