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A bellow ringing out among the most ravenous of fjords opens up a song title-dropping a different environment, Welcome To My Island. Within a minute flat, the album’s title is dropped within the lyrics. Seems we’ve got an opener on our hands. The keyboards slice in effervescent fantasia, almost making up for the rather flavorless spoken-word verse mannerisms. When Polachek does get to the role of singing, however, it becomes a much more effective martyr towards the album’s gates in which it undertakes the process of sliding open. The drums function inoffensive but serviceable, the guitar just as much so. It sheds away at any purple prose because its utmost virtue is being straightforward.

Pretty In Possible scats its way into instrumentation, immediately assuming the ears with a much more interesting set of drums, a slight sheen of sapphire compared to the bland wooden easiness of the previous percussion arrays. Trip-hop bumbles fresh tracks onto this song’s sound, such a trait no better elaborated than in the chemistry between Polachek and the drums. The strings (whether synth faux or genuine) only add to such a proper organization. It all functions within just the right amount of time allotted, not a second wasted and not a moment missed. Here’s one thing the song can be reminiscent of: that one lone melody you find yourself humming whilst waiting in an elevator, your mind deciding to build upon it until it becomes a composition mostly of your sincerest efforts and derivations.

The casual apartment backdrop sheds away into a window showcasing a rainforest before the viewer’s eyes. Not a genuine kind of tropical or exotic, more kind of the soundtrack and environment you can expect to find in some plastic animated flick a la Rio. If you wanna be a little more civil and within the realms of the city, refer to the nonsensical commercial Floridian clique of Vivo, whichever kind of bland you feel fits you the best. Even if this is shorter than the songs before, Polachek approaches a sound that seems like it would be the most vibrant damn fruit smoothie, but ends up having about the same flavor as an empty ice tray. This song, Bunny is a Rider, despite being a pleasant tune for driving along a beach road greeting the Atlantic within the newest Porsche or Maserati (complete with the narration you swear you heard three commercials ago), couldn’t grip onto a more interesting anything to save its life. The production holds it up as a sensible product, at least.

Oh, you thought we were done with that aesthetic commotion? Time for some flamenco-pop since it seems like you’re on your hands and knees, parched and exhausted, skin like the Grand Canyon, teeth like the bottom of a hiker’s boot, begging for more. Thankfully in Sunset, the percussion is much more organic, and Polachek provides a much more interesting performance (although rather generous with the amount of levitation it partakes in like a sport). It goes about its time more unchanging than it should be, Polachek’s voice floating even within moments where it’s better off fleshing out the surface. This is only reinforced by the song ending much sooner than appreciated.

Crude Drawing of an Angel begins with a behaviour that seems to favor taking its time. The ambience and slowed, sparse environments only assist in this notion. This song wakes up in the shadows of the buildings that occupy the two previous pieces, letting its senses knock into consciousness, before slowly rising to its feet and scouring the moonlit seaside streets with its out-of-practice echolocation. Each kick drum like a footstep, each fleeting sound effect like a blinded whistle. Slowly slumbering out of night sobered and only slightly stable, the 2-step waddling (in the memory of Sophie) of I Believe begins at this melancholic plateau and, through the inexplicable power of love against the odds, transform its walk into a steadfast march, very slightly within a more unorthodox dent situated on the shoulders of dance-pop and R&B. To this point, I Believe is far and away the most developed of this medicinal menagerie of songs.

Fly to You, employing the voices of Grimes and Dido, flutters using an engine powered singlehandedly by a hushed drum-and-bass. It properly enforces the concept of flight just through its sound, its independent float and flutter. The two additional voices at hand do not at all detract from the atmosphere, and instead complement the song’s every subtlety. Perhaps the guitar and voice deserve more balance in the lens of volume. The only thing holding back this song is the most unashamedly subjective thing about all of this album: it doesn’t have the power, that capability to scritch along the brain in just the correct spot. It’s a song with the ability to grip the background that precedes you, not your very self. This is a song perfect for the modern day SkyTrain timelapse video, where the past was met with the sounds of jittering trances and soulful voices lost within the purgatorial cloudy weathers of each second of footage.

Blood and Butter comes off as a more sensible approach to the realms of Sunset or Bunny is a Rider, before derailing into an even more sensible folktronica crash course and seasoned properly with a pint, pinch, and squint of Celtic electronics. Don’t think these words make a case? Ask the bagpipe three minutes in. The layering of it all is appropriate, the production does exactly the roles it needs to do (such as letting the vocals do a generous bit of heavy lifting while letting the blips and skitters decorate each channel like herbs and spices). Shit, you have that flavor trickling down into the drums and more tender bass. Much like this paragraph, the ending is the sole factor holding it back.

The exaggerated ambience of Hopedrunk Everasking is more along the sparse corridors of this album’s sounds. It borders on new-age from how much of a soft, pillowy slumber it is. Funnily enough, it ends on one drawling and drooling, ever so tender synth two minutes ahead of schedule. Polachek’s voice may occasionally betray this piece’s atmosphere, but the ultimate flaw is how little it allows the listener to be immersed, its slow approach and short runtime the main contributors to this quandary. A good estimate for a score? Six out of ten Enyas.

Butterfly Net, however, breathes and pulses into existence before making way for a guitar and vocals surrounded by an atmospheric rip, an agitation. The organ may as well be one of the best parts of the entire album, adding so much more to this piece alone. The drums have just the right amount of punch. The psychedelics in which this song is conditioned into bearing, provides just the correct dosage of disorienting celestial happenings. The bass satisfies every last quota premeditated within the listener’s ears. In some moments, it can be rather ghastly in its softness, but it remains very much one of the most potent songs on the whole work, and in Polachek’s career so far. Smoke is more awake as a song, despite seeming a bit more of a net compromise. Its heartbeat exists in a very refined and restrained set of breaks, voices layering and vanishing into sheer ambience and plasma, not necessarily overwhelming but rather a decontamination effort more than anything. This song being sandwiched in between Butterfly Net and Billions only makes it more forgettable.

On one Tuesday evening (don’t worry, you can merely pretend this actually happened), Caroline Polachek was found wearing a mask in order to hide her face. It was revealed that hours earlier, she was responsible for the missing files of Vespertine B-sides. Upon returning the hard drive, all of its contents were drained. To this day, the window in which she broke through is not repaired, but rather preserved just for a goof. Upon being confronted about this in an interview, she intervened by blowing raspberries and pretending to fly away by throwing her hands around.

A few months later, Billions surfaced, the culmination of that robbery, showing every last repurposing of those 40 minutes of throwaway art-pop into a more refined and complete piece. Polachek’s voice does feel a bit out of time during the chorus, but the experimentation remains the most refreshing performance in this album. The piece is very much reminiscent of such sensual compromises portrayed within the musical hostage, but this time with a different gaze and set of colors. As voices compose themselves into set positions and chorus, the microscopic little atmospheric inflections and fleeting shards of sound hush away at the ears with ravaging sensibility. It slowly becomes more and more unrecognizable as the song progresses, ending the entire album with one of the lamest fadeouts I’ve heard this month. Over a quarter of the song’s length is spent on one last mantra before decaying away into a lack of memory.

Desire, I Want To Turn Into You (2023, Perpetual Novice) is likely among the ranks of albums that have the potential to be exacted into masterpieces with just the right changes in the right places instead of a complete and utter revamp. Perhaps the ultimate example of this would be the closing track, where the listener is virtually blueballed with a rather lame fadeout (which is among the worst ways you can end an album, especially one that is long-awaited but that’s beside the point). A lot of the production is spot-on, but some of the biggest issues of the album exist within the dimensions of differentiation and consistency. In a very respectable way, this seems like an album that would resonate with great depth only to Polachek, or one who paints themselves as very similar to Polachek. Her voice faces some struggles too, occasionally losing focus here and there to try and reach for stars where there is merely air. This focus and consistency issue plagues a lion’s share of the album. The landscapes portrayed can be constructed out of either the finest, most organic and most appropriate materials and elements for the job, or just mere plastic replicas that would likely kill you if you gnawed on them for more than 20 minutes.

And yet there also exists moments where it all melds properly, such as the full-moon malady-melting medicinal marvels of I Believe, Fly to You, and Butterfly Net. These are utmost respectable highs, and one can only wish this album could have achieved such a plateau of quality. Maybe then I would come to a conclusion on whether or not it’s better than Pang, because I still have no idea. Remember when she ended the album poorly? Watch me do the same thing, here.

Score: 6/10.

Trajectory of listens past the first: neutral.

Written 2/26/2023, 4:30 - 5:54 PM.


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