Boomboxes sit on pillars while high schoolers with Obey caps try breakdancing to show off to their friends and dorky crushes. The youth of the city speak in their own vernacular, finding what terms stick. Money takes control of everyone, but citizens try their best to make such a thing secondary in order to learn about deeply rooted feelings that are more existential than not. And by the arcade is Chairlift, sipping on a mixture of Sprite, Coke, and rum, creating the freak pop sounds that would come to be Moth.
Boulder’s Chairlift blend their Electronic sound with urban flavour and twitchy beats in order to develop Moth. In stature, their sound is far away from a beast like Mothra, being more in proximity to moths used as a cult’s symbol, preferably the kind on a secret door. Nostalgia would bring some to their song “Bruises” and its use in an iPod commercial; but their sound then and their present one are varied, taking slight inspiration from vocalist Caroline Polachek’s side-project Ramona Lisa. Moth is an electronic piece with very savoury moments of pop and several sour moments that prevent it from flying high.
The best moments Chairlift have to offer are ones where they capture atmospheres of urban life. Though the band channel particularly sweet vocal harmonies, akin to being doused in stevia, the group acknowledge their attitude the same way skateboarders do when they find out their hobby has been outlawed. “Ch-Ching” captures street smarts while also locking in catchy melodies and brassy interjections. Knowledge and power equal money, but Polachek’s songwriting recognizes more than that. When “Moth to the Flame,” a track with a Madonna-influenced style, speaks the words “He’s just that kind of man, momma…” Moth becomes the kind of love letter to old gangster love stories. “Show U Off” lightens that gangster feel by creating a dusty Prince Charming adorned in more than rags. All of this is brightened up by peppy, dance-worthy synths that show off how Chairlift dabbles in simple and steady instead of too complicated.
But simple also coordinates with what can be considered as freak pop. Synth lines throughout the record are unassuming and more common within more abrasive and surprising electronic musicians like Arca or the hip-hop-oriented Young Fathers. Tracks like “Look Up,” “Romeo,” and “Ottawa to Osaka” are trapped within their experimental bubbles, while closer “No Such Thing As Illusion” takes obscurity to the next level by adding stranger harmonies. It’s in the slower motions of such a track and “Unfinished Business” that settle the conclusion that this tempo needs to be something to refine in further efforts.
Further efforts should also make note to avoid lyrical clichés whenever possible. Though “Polymorphing” is perfectly bright and breeze-emanating, its outlining of neurotransmitters is an unforgiving and commonplace idea. Attempts to feel mysterious, like in “Ottawa to Osaka” also feel unrefined. But sometimes these clichés work in the sense that they make songs relatable (“Crying In Public”). Perhaps one of the best parts of Moth is that it kills you with flowers and refuses you see the common. Everyone’s heard lines like “Love will be the key,” but being sucked into Polachek’s divine voice and Patrick Wimberly’s sounds is so easy and almost breathtaking.
It’s almost a sin to hurt this album, like it’s the harming of an actual moth. It portrays an urban life by positing its noise-polluted streets and tear-stained train floors. In these places you’ll find the imperfect lovers Chairlift attempt to define.
Dustin Ragucos is a writer of things fictional, poetic, and musical. His main loves include Death Grips and Indie music. Dustin’s blog is host to a weekly blurb about albums old and new.