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Caroline Polachek Harnesses The Power Of Desire

Featuring Grimes, Dido, and Sega Bodega, the operatic mastermind delivers a sophomore sweep.

by Colin Gallant

Caroline Polachek’s sophomore album Desire, I Want to Turn Into You delivers as the next evolution of her vocal experimentation and distinct electro-acoustic compositions. With it she serves up an ambitiously expanded sonic palette, new heights of vocal acrobatics. and the best choruses of her career thus far. Without hyperbole, the record at times sounds like a cousin of Björk’s Post and Jamie xx’s In Colour.

Opening track “Welcome to My Island,” Polachek sets the bar high with an N64-indebted electronic track and a vocal take — including a rap — that sounds like it was recorded at the edge of a cliff. From there, she wanders through rave-ready garage beats (“I Believe”), church-like bells and organ (“Fly To You” featuring Grimes and Dido), string patches (“Pretty In Possible”), bagpipes (“Blood and Butter”) and Spaghetti Western guitar (“Sunset”) — each disparate element a welcome addition and strangely natural fit alongside her alien pipes. The ambitiously varied production was handled once again by Polachek and PC Music’s Danny L Harle, plus guests like A.G. Cook, Sega Bodega and others.

Consisting of half bangers and half mid-tempo anthems, you can’t help but notice that most of the former category were available in advance as singles — including “Bunny Is A Rider,” Pitchfork’s #1 song of 2021. A mega-cache of singles, like an overzealous movie trailer, can sometimes spoil all the good parts. Thankfully, as any fan of her first record, Pang, knows, Polachek is a beast when it comes to slow burners, a torch-carrying siren who can create the highest of stakes with just a sparse instrumental and her searing voice.