Review: Chairlift @ Sixth & I Historic Synagogue (2008.12.04)

Chairlift @ Triple Rock in Minneapolis, MN

Chairlift @ Triple Rock in Minneapolis, MN

Photo credit: Heidi Holzem

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MP3: Chairlift – Evident Utensil

I wait outside Sixth and I Historic Synagogue, observing a few peacoat-ed young crowded together in an attempt to light their Camel Filters, trying to distinguish hot breath from cigarette smoke.

I’m usually not that hyped up during the holidays, but DC in the winter is hard to resist—

bare branches woven with lights and red ribbon. There was just this warmth radiating from the historic synagogue that had an intense effect on the performances of the night.

From where I am sitting, I notice a string of translucent Papier-mâché bulbs that hang above the stage, changing from red to blue to yellow and back again, reflecting rainbow beams across an enlarged Star of David: all of it nothing short of an Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Yeasayer welcomes Chairlift on tour—that new indie-pop band from the Nano-chromatic iPod commercial. Another Apple ad, another indie-pop artist in the limelight. It should not come as a surprise that Chairlift has now linked up with front runners Vampire Weekend and Cold War Kids after their track “Bruises”

quickly caught on. Moving from Boulder to Brooklyn in 2006, the trio signed with Kanine Records, home of Grizzly Bear and The Rumble Strips.

Like a lovely Cousin Itt, Caroline Polachek peeks through a curtain of hair to press chords and follow suit with pipes like those of Kate Nash and Leslie Feist, with Aaron Pfenning on electric/bass guitar and Patrick Wimberly on drums.

Upbeat vocals masking the grief of falling in and out of love, Chairlift incorporates a rather ironic use of melody. What I once underestimated has now shaken me up. To those who label this sort of style “simple” or “ineffective”, I think that’s actually the point. It’

s almost sarcastic, using the innocence of cheerful, syrupy tunes to contrast a deeper emotional message.

My first few listenings brushed Chairlift up against recent Swedish-pop exports like Love is All and Lykke Li. Their September release, Does You Inspire You, however, widens their scope, adding a nostalgic element of dreamy twinkles and unembellished bass lines that range from typical and trendy to a lost track from a Molly Ringwald movie. Check out cuts “Planet Earth” and “Evident Utensil”: they consider this a “new breed of pop”, and rightfully so, defining the species as “a place where subtle clashes blossom into uncanny pleasures”. The music of synth-y keyboard and light percussion is gentle behind the rise and fall of Polachek’s voice, whose high pitched notes erratically change up the arrangement on songs like “Garbage” and “Don’t Give A Damn.”

Live, harmonies with Pfenning, as well as the instrumental additions (cow-bell, maracas), incorporate more elements to the sound and complement the headliners with an aspect of Bohemia. Though it would seem being knighted by Apple is a golden ticket, it can also limit the curiosity and variety of an artist, sticking to the marketable indie structure. Only time will tell which way Chairlift will go, but right now the future looks promising.

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One Response to “Review: Chairlift @ Sixth & I Historic Synagogue (2008.12.04)”

  1. Heidi Holzem says:

    Hey thanks for the photo credit! I appreciate it! :)

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