This is not exactly the same Chairlift that buzz-catching bloggers fell in love with on the back of a 2008 iPod Nano ad. In the four years since, the Brooklyn-based trio re-released its indie debut Does You Inspire You on a major label and became a duo after the departure of founding member Aaron Pfenning. On Something, the group hooks up with Franz Ferdinand producer Dan Carey and radically expands both its sound and vibe. Whereas the original Chairlift flipped between Twin Peaks spookiness and synth-pop spoofiness, its 2012 incarnation visits several places between and beyond.
Frontwoman Caroline Polachek has become a far more confident singer, not ashamed to let out her inner Sarah McLachlan, which in the context of the band’s brighter and bolder palate is not at all a bad thing: “Take It Out on Me” floats on a raft of serene but sticky synths while its lyrics suggest either S&M or an affair gone askew – an uncanny combination that recalls McLachlan’s seductive yet unsettling “Possession.” Sleek ballads like “Cool As a Fire” reveal a far more earnest and finessed beauty in Polachek’s delivery that transcends Does You‘s archness. Yet some of its playfulness remains intact here, bolstered by firmer beats and more dexterous basslines, particularly on jaunty opening cut “Sidewalk Safari” and the nonsensical but supremely hooky “Amanaemonesia.” It’s unclear if Chairlift is reaching for deeper meaning, but the prettier and more propulsive Something suggests that the shape-shifting pair is keeping all options open.