Music Review: Caroline Polachek captures shape-shifting love

This cover image released by Perpetual Novice shows “Desire, I Want To Turn Into You” by Caroline Polachek. (Perpetual Novice via AP)
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“Desire, I Want To Turn Into You,” Caroline Polachek (Perpetual Novice)

Finally giving into the anticipation that has awaited since her 2019 album “Pang," Caroline Polachek greets 2023 with “Desire, I Want To Turn Into You," on a fitting Valentine's Day release date. Between sweeping anthems, folkloric serenades and electronic teases, the artist captures the transcendent and elusive forces of love.

Incorporating singles known for their catchy rhythms, like 2021's “Bunny is a Rider" and last summer's “Sunset,” into a swath of eerie meditations, like “Crude Drawing of an Angel" and “Hopedrunk Everasking," Polachek imbues pastoral harmonies and vocal flares into her romanticism, primeval drifting into the future.

Polachek lures listeners in with the playful “Welcome To My Island" before shifting toward the atmospheric weight of “Pretty Impossible” that lends its synthetic beats to the impassioned quest “I Believe” that flows into the emotional longing of “Butterfly Net." Brìghde Chaimbeul’s earthy bagpipe flourishes in multiple songs, and fellow artists Dido and Grimes collaborate in the fluttery “Fly to You.” While instrumental sharpness singles her album out, Polachek's lyrics the elevate the romantic effect, either with magical realism, cheeky puns or plain desire. Throughout, Polachek captures love's shape-shifting essence.

Among most listeners, Polachek is known for ethereal dance music that casts sunshine into an alternative '90s pop groove. Her opera-trained voice flows between octaves with a precision mistaken for auto-tune. She's been likened to this generation’s Kate Bush. Once a part of pop-group Chairlift of the early ‘00s, Polachek's been charging forward with her own sound, and “Desire, I Want To Turn Into You" proves her timeless relevance.

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