Chicago is known for its long winters, so long that the cold buries itself into the minds of the citys inhabitants. Think of NFL Films specials on Green Bays Frozen Tundra, Lambeau Field (jock-speak). Think of living north of the Wall in Westeros (nerd-speak). The low temperatures make it difficult to recall any time when sweat fell from your forehead and into your eyes, stinging in the 90-degree heat. In February, the month of August seems so far away. The idea of an outdoor music festival seems not only impossible, but downright absurd.
Then the first weekend of August arrives and all is well. Its hot as hell, Lollapalooza is upon us once more, and what does the word cold mean, anyway? If there is a band to further detach us from the concepts of cold fronts, blizzards, and snow flurries, it may be a specific representative from the 21st centurys crop of synth-poppers: Chairlift.
Chairlift comes courtesy of the duo Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly, the former bringing the songs and the vocals with the latter bringing up the rhythm section. With an endless stream of M83-wannabes and Pet Shop Boys dreamers-and-doers, it becomes more and more difficult to stand out without appearing as a sore thumb. Chairlift bucks the trend with its pure vocals and beats that dont pulverize, but just guide. Its the perfect atmosphere not only for a music festival, but to keep up those spirits that may be ready to take a break before the Chili Peppers or Avicii hit the stage later in the evening. Like I said, it gets hot out there, people.
Polachek formed the band alongside Aaron Pfenning in 2006, residing in the snowy mounts of Colorado before relocating to Brooklyn in the summer of that same year. They cut their teeth on their first full-length in 2008 (now with Wimberly) with the release of Does You Inspire You, which went on to receive acclaim from a variety of major publications (NME and Spin, to name but two). A single from the album, Evident Utensil, produced a video that would garner equal acclaim. The use of video manipulation has to be seen to be believed, or better yet, fully understood:
Cut to 2012 and a new release filled with music so sweet it sticks and wont let go. With Something, Chairlift allows the music to squiggle and bounce alongside Polacheks strong vocals. The groups singer/songwriter alternates between soothing guide to seductive sing-speak in the span of a song (Sidewalk Safari), while her band mate aids the beats during the unapologetic ’80s-homage that is I Belong in Your Arms. Too often, synth-pops lyrics and vocalists take a backseat to the music before it (not that theres anything wrong with that), but this is where Chairlift flips the genre on its head.
Cool as a Fire features Polacheks vocals at their finest, with her range on complete display. Her delivery of Im alive/Im alive/I know glides atop the subdued synths, cementing the purpose of the songs deserved title. In our review of the album, Paul de Revere offered up this note on, Amanaemonesia, calling it the leanest, meanest song here, with a juggernaut hook and bass bending and popping over analog synth. It evokes a fitness-video backing track and the songs video, featuring an interpretive dance performed by Polachek, plays oddly similar.
If the Gods are smiling on us come August, we will have clear skies and a crowd of thousands gratefully baking in the sun. We wont have any rain, and the acts you came to see at the end of each night make the whole day and price of ticket worthwhile. Remember what youre paying for at Lollapalooza, though. The Jack Whites, the Black Sabbaths and Keys of the world make it go round, but those early acts you catch earlier in the day keep the car running. Let Chairlift act the ignition.
Photography by Heather Kaplan.