Caroline Polachek builds on ‘Pang’ promise with new album

Indie-pop rising star will continue to win fans with latest release


Caroline Polachek:

Desire, I Want to Turn Into You

Genre: Indie Pop

Rating: NNNN (out of 5)
Sound: A synth-heavy, genre-bending pop album about desire that balances want with independence.
If you like: Charli XCX, Carly Rae Jepsen, Dua Lipa
Best track: Welcome to My Island
Why you should listen: Caroline Polachek continues to write impeccably produced pop jams that will have you redefining what it means to be desired.

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ON HER FOURTH ALBUM, Desire, I Want to Turn Into You, rising indie-pop powerhouse Caroline Polachek wants you to know that she wants your love — but you have to seek her out.

A New York-born singer-songwriter and producer, Polachek has been putting music out into the world since 2014; but it was her 2019 album, Pang, that cemented her as a rising star. Since then, she’s toured with Dua Lipa, was featured on Charli XCX’s song New Shapes and was NEXT Magazine’s October 2021 cover star.

On Desire, I Want to Turn Into You, Polachek reveals her vocal ability to be unmatched as she takes listeners on a ride, hopping from upbeat and danceable pop to Latin-inspired pop to slow jams, before speeding up the tempo to close out the album.

The album’s cheery guitar lead opener, Welcome to My Island, compares her body to an island and warns the listener, “You ain’t leaving.” Polachek flips effortlessly from her falsetto to deep in her chest to a deadpan spoken rap of advice her late father gave her, all the while painting a side of desire that borders on possessiveness.

Bunny Is a Rider, the lead single from the album that caught everybody’s attention when it was released in 2021, is Polachek reminding listeners that you don’t always have to be available and a “yes” person. You can be physically and emotionally unavailable, even if you desire someone. They can do the hard work of chasing after you. The song is still an absolute earworm, and the hook “Bunny is a rider / Satellite can’t find her” will continue to get stuck in your head for weeks after every listen.

The Latin-pop-inspired Sunset features fingerpicked, mariachi-band-like guitars, funky drum beats and occasional “heys” in the background. But instead of being a fun break on the album, the song doesn’t land, feeling disconnected sonically from the rest of the album as Polachek never revisits this Latin-pop sound.

Blood and Butter features some of the punchiest and smoothest synths on Desire, I Want to Turn Into You, the only song that can be described as an ode. Polachek tells someone that she’s “all in.” She’ll be there for their bad days and for days when they just need her to be there. She desires them so much she exclaims, “Oh, I get closer than your new tattoo.” The instrumentals even mimic this message. The song starts slow and builds into an angelic hymn before ending in a chorus of bagpipes.

For all its excitement, Desire, I Want to Turn Into You isn’t without its lulls. Blood and Butter is a well-placed slow jam, allowing listeners to take a breather, but Polachek forces two more sluggishly slow songs that negatively affect the overall pacing of the album and its message.

For the same reason that Welcome to My Island opens the album, Billions closes it. While the opener is about being totally selfish in desiring someone and putting yourself front and centre, this song is about being engulfed by the vastness of the world. Polachek is just a tiny speck who desires another tiny speck. The album ends with the Trinity Croydon Choir repeating endearingly, “I never felt so close to you.”

That Desire, I Want to Turn Into You was released on Valentine’s Day doesn’t seem like any coincidence. Polachek clearly has much to say about desire, seemingly having probed deep enough on the subject that she is expressing her wish to become the very concept, with all of its fascinating facets and dark twists. While not every track lands in the way she seems to intend, it’s clear that Polachek is still finding new heights with her pop game. If you liked her earlier work — especially Pang — then you’ll find yourself enamoured with this album.

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