Hear Now: Caroline Polachek

Hear Now: Caroline Polachek

Fresh off her first LP since dropping her artistic alias, Caroline Polachek strikes a chord of triumphant individuality.

Fresh off her first LP since dropping her artistic alias, Caroline Polachek strikes a chord of triumphant individuality.

Photography: Danielle Levitt

Styling: Chris Horan

Text: Julia Gray

This article appears in the pages of V124: Welcome to Generation V. Order your copy at shop.vmagazine.com.

Caroline Polachek has an intensity about her. You can hear it in her voice, which she’s lent to various art-pop projects over the years. First came her longtime band, Chairlift, which she and a former classmate formed in 2005 at the University of Colorado. By the time the group disbanded in 2017, Polachek had begun to flex her solo might, penning Beyoncé’s “No Angel” and scoring campaigns for Proenza Schouler. But on Pang, her breakout 2019 solo album and the first using her full name, Polachek’s unique talents are laid bare.

“I made [Pang] while coming in and out of these manic adrenaline surges: I was losing sleep, losing my appetite, losing weight,” Polachek explains. “These surges [had started] as a result of tectonic shifts in my life: Chairlift had fallen away. All these changes put me into this jittery, hypersensitive state.”

Pang is futuristic yet medieval-sounding at times—a calibration that suggests Polachek had precise artistic control over her unraveling. Just as central to the album’s novel soundscapes is PC Music producer Danny L Harle. “The album combines Dan’s love and extreme skill with this Renaissance-era polyphony: these beautiful, lean chord changes, with my aerial way of improvising melodies,” Polachek says. Despite PC Music’s penchant for intentionally over-processed beats and vocals, there’s an operatic rawness to Polachek’s pipes, which flit between crystalline anguish and euphoric high. “We actually used very little Auto-Tune,” says Polachek, who instead trained her voice to echo Auto-Tune-like modulation: “I find the textures I like in Auto-Tune and try to find it in my voice. Life imitates art,” she explains. “All humans are mimics. That’s how we learn culture and language.”

Stacked with sensitive bangers and searing ballads, Pang feels like a confident leap toward a new, emotional-pop renaissance. “I want people to feel like they’re not alone in things, and like they have a soundtrack to moments of focused intensity,” says Polachek. “It’s a roadmap for people dealing with change.” The singer credits her newfound PC Music family with imparting new implements for this emo-pop expression. “I was just so supercharged by the whole new world [that] the PC Music crew open[ed] up [for me]—these new musical paradigms in which I could exist as an artist, and to which I could contribute with my writing,” she says. “I feel enormously challenged and excited by it… All I care about is building my own planet with people who are building theirs.”

 

 

Caroline wears jacket and pants Fendi, Necklace stylist’s own

Caroline wears Miu Miu dress, scarf and necklace stylist’s own.

Caroline wears jacket and pants Fendi, Necklace stylist’s own

Credits:

Makeup: Amy Strozzi (Tomlinson Management Group)

Hair: Kelly Peach

Digital technician: Meredith Munn

Lighting technician: Sepehr Zemani

Photo assistant: Amanda Yanez

Stylist assistant: Lauren Jeworski

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