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  • Writer's pictureBradley Gambosi

Welcome To Caroline Polachek's Island

“Desire, I Want To Turn Into You” - Caroline Polachek (2023)

It’s been quite a moment since my last review of Tove Lo’s pop masterpiece, Dirt Femme, which set a high standard for upcoming pop releases to beat. However, since then, Caroline Polachek has been leading the way, through her latest album campaign for Desire, I Want To Turn Into You. Trust me, you’ll definitely want to take a trip.

Desire is a core part of human nature; we constantly want more, and more, and more, until one day it’s simply all over. Desire itself is Polachek’s afflatus throughout the entire body of work. Even if love might end in utter heartbreak, she still desires it and the possibility of its power to transform the most “boring lives” into something heavenly. Falling in love with someone is a full-body experience; you want to know everything about them, possibly to the unrealistic point of wanting to turn into them.

Polachek has been precisely honing her craft over the last two decades, starting as half of the indie-pop duo Chairlift, known for their 2008 sleeper hit “Bruises.” Even more so with 2019’s Pang, which was cited by critics as one of the best albums of the year and gained her a massive cult following, along with the TikTok viral “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings.” She has had plenty of time to nurture a sound that is uniquely hers. This years-long buildup reaches its summit in Desire, I Want To Turn Into You.

The opening track, “Welcome To My Island,” opens as classic Caroline Polachek, with an unmistakable yodel or murderous scream, before venturing into the visuals of crystalline waters and waving palms that serve as the gateway to the rest of the world the album has to offer. Here, she has a desire as deep as “the ocean blue” and is ready to dive headfirst into it. Her island is a place of dreams, free from the daily stress of life; she can simply “float on the ocean blue.” It is desire in its finest form.

Polachek is a hopeless romantic, reaching out for love. “Sunset,” the surprising sultry, passionate flamenco-inspired track, is a well-suited complement to the heavily synthesized and digital sound of Desire. Her partner is holding her together and keeping her safe from the turmoil in her life. “So many stories we were told about a safety net (Hey!) / But when I look for it, it’s just a hand that’s holding mine,” she proclaims.

Despite Desire, I Want To Turn Into You being encapsulated by love, another big inspiration heard within tracks such as “I Believe” and “Fly To You” (featuring Grimes & Dido) is the death and loss Polachek recently faced. She lost her father in 2020 to COVID-19 and one of her best friends, legendary producer SOPHIE, in 2021. She proclaims, “I don’t know, but I believe / We’ll get another day together,” on “I Believe.” Polachek has explained she was inspired by previous hits from powerhouse Celine Dion and early “orchestra hits” of thumping synths and sheer drama, which are heard all throughout the emotional track. She continues this painful narrative singing, “After all the tears ur all I need to fly to you / I’m looking for something that nobody else can see,” on “Fly To You” completing the trio with the infamous Grimes & Dido.

On these moments of darkness within the album, Polachek continuously sings about her desire to make these disappearing joys within her life eternal moments, despite not having the power to do so.

With this album, Caroline Polachek reaches a plane of self-awareness that every artist strives for but typically falls short of achieving. She is perfectly able to rely on the traditional pop structure while also rejecting it, a mixture that perfectly encapsulates the utter simplicity and complexity of the human emotional experience. To even begin to simply describe the complex world she builds on Desire, Polachek even creates her own language at times. She deems these complex feelings, “hopedrunk,” “wikipediaed,” and “mythicalogical,” to name a few, and it all makes perfect sense within the genius that is Desire, I Want To Fall Into You.

The album closes with the best song on Desire, I Want To Turn Into You, entitled “Billions.” Whilst opening with the unrealistic picture of perfection on “Welcome To My Island,” the palms swaying in the wind, the oceans a perfect blue, life is simple, relaxing even. While this perfect island may seem like it could be a reality to the innocent and naïve children’s choir, whom Polachek beautifully enlists to close out “Billions.” Those of us who’ve unfortunately experienced life’s ultimate twists and have been tainted by our own desires simply know we’ll only get to visit that island in our minds temporarily, but of course, we’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Caught the harsh winter blues? Soak up the sun on Caroline Polachek’s Desire, I Want To Turn Into You.


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