Caroline Polachek – Desire, I Want To Turn Into You: Review

Production exploding with momentous energy, vibrant songwriting, and whimsically enigmatic vocal directions, there was so little I didn’t love about the new Caroline Polachek album, Desire, I Want To Turn Into You. Polachek’s follow-up to Pang offers a continuation of nearly transcendent sounds beautifully engineered and delivered with rich depth; it keeps the album’s distinct direction flowing in constant motion as we get whimsically fantastic lyricism. It’s as if Polachek had varying canvases and painted them with grace, allowing these varying genre complexions to flash and coat her emphatically moody poppy melodies with more than just an identity. It gives it meaning beyond the conjectures of its finite production; Polachek weaves intricate themes through metaphorically inspired storytelling as she tackles individualism and spiraling upward while balancing thematic melodic and sounds through others. It’s a triumphant continuation that has kept its presence on loop significantly, even with its less-than-stellar moment, which are rare, and further delivering one of the best projects of 2023 thus far.

Desire, I Want To Turn Into You is more than its captivatingly luscious grooves boasting that desire to feel free, dance, and emote confidently. You hear it instantly with this stellar run to begin the album. From “Welcome To My World” to “Sunset,” there is a burgeoning desire to let it all loose as Polachek builds upon pop traditionalism like the Trip-Hop controlled “Pretty Is Possible” and the summery “Sunset,” which incorporates more Spanish, Italian, and Romani melodies. Polachek, along with co-producers Danny L. Harle, Sega Bodega, Dan Nigro, Jim-E Stack, and Ariel Rechtshaid, keeps it consistent with steady tones to keep its themes focused on its impact when a track closes. Harle and Polacheck produce a bulk of the album collectively; however, what others bring, is this vibrant sense of direction, no matter what gets set up at the base. They use these stylistic influences brilliantly by building an identity like Sega Bodega does with “Sunset” or how Rechtshaid helps Harle and Polachek bring that Garage sound (electronic genre) to give the percussion its own flourish on “I Believe” or “Blood And Butter.” 

What Danny L. Harle and Caroline Polachek create continues to significantly capture and deliver an understanding of how Polachek directs her craft. It’s a sense that allows her to creatively take ideas about certain lyrical song archetypes, like the divaness of “Smoke” or a sonic vibe like the summery “Sunset.” Whether it’s the drum-n-bass/jungle nuances of “Fly To You” or the garage-breakbeat influence of “Smoke,” there is a resounding depth to the production. It offers a platform for Polachek’s songwriting to shine, especially with more archetypal tracks like “Smoke” or loose ones like “Pretty Is Possible.” It’s this constant motion of emotional density gripping you at the seams and keeping you sat as the notes wrap around your head and slowly infiltrate your ears, making you love what predominantly comes through. There are some minor stumbles where Polachek plays it safe, despite said tracks never wincing in quality, like the scorny (scary and horny) “Crude Drawing Of An Angel.”

Though it’s all exuberant in sound, they may not hit the nail perfectly, like “Hopedrunk Everything,” which is too keen on an atmospheric aesthetic instead of building beyond harmonious strings and choir vocals. With the previously mentioned “Crude Drawing Of An Angel,” the scorny lyrics aren’t as entrenching as it tries to balance the horniness with its vague and efficacious allusions and metaphors. The melodies and production being on point as it beautifully contrasts the atmosphere in “Hopedrunk Everything,” letting the ambiance help its delivery, is what makes “Crude Drawing Of An Angel, a solid ambient scorny ballad. There are many ingredients in the concoction known as Desire, I Want To Turn Into You, but unlike the numerous that whiff at a chance to make something fluid and profound. Caroline Polachek isn’t some outlier who continuously shifts what we think about the artist. On past albums, whether solo or during her time with Chairlift, she has kept more of a streamlined direction, building upon the known instead of finding ways to integrate and create new sounds. Pangs did so at various moments, but it’s refined with Polacheck’s follow-up, which lets these productions be their own character in her musical world.

Caroline Polachek brings all this into creating music that can embody varying elements and still make captivating dance tracks that will easily hypnotize you on the dancefloor. “Bunny Is A Rider” speaks on female empowerment and individualism, feeling free as your confidence boasts your mental fortitude. It’s the song that hits every note perfectly, never stopping the engine while implementing some of the smoothest transitions between verse and chorus. I haven’t been able to stop the loop, almost feeling like Bunny myself. It isn’t the only time we get this, “Sunset” is one, and “Blood and Butter” are another. It’s well-rounded, even with some minor elements not totally working.

Desire, I Want To Turn Into You is well-rounded, even with some minor elements not fully working. Songs take varying angles sonically but never seem to falter as they transition between each other. It’s like a rollercoaster of octaves and musical layers that will keep this stuck on a loop. I can’t recommend this album enough, and I hope you hear what I hear.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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