In the process of landing a major label deal with Columbia, Chairlift also managed to lose one of their founding members, Aaron Pfenning, after his relationship with singer Caroline Polachek went south. As unfortunate as it might be to say, this may have been the best thing that could have happened to the band, especially considering how much further the act has come since their 2008 debut Does You Inspire You.
What we have on Something is Polachek and Patrick Wimberly sounding both confident and self-assured, and at the peak of their game. Their sound is fleshed-out and the album navigates into the depths of their romantic hearts, yet never digging too deep. At the end of the day, Something is the most pop that Chairlift is capable of being, with “I Belong In Your Arms” serving as the best example. Strongly influenced as per usual by shimmery 80s synths, “I Belong In Your Arms” sounds like a b-side to a Tears For Fears song.
But while their sound has come together quite well, its really Polachek’s vocal abilities that leave the best impression. On album opener “Sidewalk Safari,” she pulls this neat little trick where her vocals trail and accompany the ascending octaves on guitar, which also happens to be one of the finest numbers of them all. “Take It Out On Me” brings things down a notch, sonically speaking, and is pretty self-explanatory from its title, with the song’s central character wanting to prolong the onslaught of abuse set to come her way to not make a scene in public. Polachek’s lyrics often tend to not dig too deep, which reinforces Something‘s pop appeal.
Another memorable point of Something is standout track “Ghost Tonight,” largely thanks to its bouncy, electronic bass drum and, once again, Polachek’s soaring vocals – her vocal abilities combined with her clever and meticulous arrangements are really something to marvel at. There are moments when Something steers slightly left of the dial, most noticeably with the strangely chosen first single “Amanaemonesia,” which seems to hold the most in common with Chairlift’s roots of originally intending to be nothing more than a group that makes background music for haunted houses.
While there is clearly a lot to praise about Something, it’d be untrue to say that it doesn’t have its moments of deflation. On the later tracks, – “Frigid Spring” and “Turning” – the up-tempo nature of its earlier songs are nowhere to be found. The main problem with this is not the quality of said songs, but rather how bunched together they feel, not allowing much room for them to breathe. Thankfully, Something manages to end on a strong note with the forceful “Guilty As Charged,” an uncharacteristically darker song driven by its stuttering bass lines and stammering, percussive crescendo that abruptly brings the album to a close.
In multiple interviews, Chairlift mentioned the fact that they had much higher expectations for Something than they did for their debut. They wanted this album to eclipse indie popularity and present itself as something much more universal. The plausibility of this seems rather unlikely, but damned if they didn’t give it their all.