IN THE MUST-WATCH Choose Your Own Adventure-style video for "Met Before," Chairlift's Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly are shown in an immaculate laboratory, wearing white coats and safety goggles, hovering thoughtfully over a laser microscope. The image is a bit jarring at first: How could these blithe Brooklynite electropoppers possibly thrive in such a sterile environment? As it so happens, Polachek and Wimberly are quite taken with the inherent possibilities of the world of science. "We always joke that if we weren't doing music, we'd be scientists," says Polachek. "We even sometimes refer to recording or working in the studio as 'sciencing,' or 'doing our science.'"
And perhaps those two things—the art of making music and the methodical study of the material world—are not so different after all. Polachek points out, "I think some of the impulses come out of the same place. It's that desire to find something that doesn't exist yet."
This mantra is easily detected in their recent sophomore release, the oddly (and aptly) named Something—also their first effort since the departure of founding member Aaron Pfenning. Sure, Chairlift hasn't completely reinvented its sound, but Polachek and Wimberly have dug deeper wells in their psyches, tapping into reserves previously undiscovered. "We made ourselves more emotionally vulnerable in these songs," Polachek says. "We're more personal, more introverted in the lyrics." You can see this peppered throughout the album, but most starkly on the excellent "Cool as a Fire." Here, Polachek rehashes a painful loss of love with piercing, crystalline vocals that add breadth to the haunting surrender in the lyrics, "But now that I found you/I don't have a choice/With or without you/I don't have a choice."
On the more literal side of the spectrum, there is standout track "Amanaemonesia," which openly celebrates the sheer joy and magic of discovery. "It came out of our heads impulsively. There is no code or exact meaning. It's an onomatopoeia. It sounds like what it's supposed to feel like," Polachek says of the enigmatic song that has incited previous interrogations. "It's joyful and chaotic and frightening and funny all at the same time"—as is the case with most breakthroughs, be they musical, scientific, or otherwise.