By Nicholas Kobe, Contributor
[Sony Music; 2023]
Key tracks: “Bunny Is A Rider”, “Sunset”, “Blood and Butter”
Desire, I Want to Turn Into You is Caroline Polachek’s sophomore release (under this name). In the mid 2010s, she released one studio record each under the names Ramona Lisa and CEP, Arcadia and Drawing the Target Around the Arrow respectively. After the duo Chairlift broke up in 2017, Polachek formally began to perform under her own name. Her first studio album as Caroline Polachek came out in 2019, titled Pang. She has since made herself well acquainted with the industry. She opened for Dua Lipa on her Future Nostalgia Tour, has collaborated with Charli XCX, Blood Orange and Hayley Williams and has written for the likes of Beyoncé on “No Angel” and “sdp interlude” for Travis Scott. Her stylistic influences and collaborations not only show an impressive resume, but also a willingness to work across many different styles of music, something that clearly shows through on this new album. Desire, I Want to Turn Into You is a fantastic example of how many stylistic influences can come together to make something both interesting, yet accessible.
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Caroline gives us a wide variety of sounds on Desire. We get everything: the tropically inspired “Welcome To My Island” and “Sunset” to the groovy “Bunny Is A Rider”, the haunting “Crude Drawing Of An Angel” and the more industrial “Billions”, just to name a few. What makes this impressive is Caroline’s ability to navigate all of these influences and styles. Vocally she is incredible. I think this is best shown on the opening track “Welcome To My Island”. The track starts with Caroline’s wailing vocals pushing to the top of her register, just for her to immediately drop back down for a more hip-hop influenced verse, just for her to explode into a grand pop chorus. This vocal dynamicness is present all throughout the album, and Caroline navigates it all seamlessly.
Musically, this diversity is just as impressive. Tracks vary lush and almost classical to something much more electronic and modern. None of this album really comes as a surprise considering how seamless it all is, but it does make it pretty hard to nail down what you just listened to once you’re done with it. To compete on the pop mainstage, you need catchy choruses and memorable melodies and Desire, I Want to Turn Into You has absolutely no shortage of those. I already was singing along to a strong portion of this album, just a few listens in. Lyrically this album also is really strong. While Caroline intentionally made this record a wide brush stroke of a lot of abstract ideas, not really compatible with hard analysis, the themes of each of the individual songs are conveyed in interesting ways.
On Desire, I Want to Turn Into You, Caroline Polachek throws everything at the wall to see what sticks. What’s remarkable is that it all does. Different ideas fly in left and right to create an album that always keeps you guessing, but simultaneously never becomes uncomfortable or jarring. Lots of that is Caroline’s ability as a songwriter and knowing how to balance the line of experimentation and accessibility. Considering this is something artists have struggled with across the musical spectrum, and across all of music history, Caroline nailing it is proof of an artist who has honed her craft. Desire, I Want to Turn Into You is an album that soars in pretty much everything it does. While perhaps not every experiment on this album is going to work for you, Caroline’s ability as a musician is undeniable and will have you enjoying even the moments you wouldn’t initially think you would.