We’ve asked a handpicked selection of the country’s best music bloggers to profile their top pick for Lollapalooza 2012. Once a week, between now and August 3rd, we’ll be posting these features in our Artist Discovery Series. From big name headliners to buzzworthy newcomers making a stir in the music world, we want to highlight the range of talent taking over Grant Park this summer. Today’s feature comes from Consequence of Sound’s Justin Gerber. Chicago is known for its long winters, so long that the cold buries itself into the minds of the city’s inhabitants. Think of NFL Films specials on Green Bay’s “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. It’s 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 century’s 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 don’t pulverize, but just guide. It’s 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 won’t let go. With Something, Chairlift allows the music to squiggle and bounce alongside Polachek’s strong vocals. The group’s 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-pop’s lyrics and vocalists take a backseat to the music before it (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but this is where Chairlift flips the genre on its head.
“Cool as a Fire” features Polachek’s vocals at their finest, with her range on complete display. Her delivery of “I’m alive/I’m alive/I know” glides atop the subdued synths, cementing the purpose of the song’s 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 song’s 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 won’t 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 you’re 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