HALFWAY THROUGH ITS 40-MINUTE RUNTIME, you’ll find the seed from which Brooklyn avantpop duo Chairlift’s third album, Moth, grew. While all ten songs sound as weightless as falling in love feels, only the record’s fifth track, “Crying in Public,” was inspired by that very sensation.
The song, the refrain of which gushes “I’m sorry I’m crying in public this way, I’m falling for you,” was written, explains singer, producer and instrumentalist Caroline Polachek, “around the time that I was realizing I’d fallen in love with someone. It hit me quite fast, actually. I realized that I was with someone who I cared very deeply for, who was changing me, making me a better person. It puts you in a very vulnerable state of mind.”
There’s a gossamer quality to the song’s production, all sparkling synth, sparse guitar and hollowsounding percussion, that extends throughout the delicate but powerful Moth into the warped hot air bursts of “Ottawa to Osaka,” a song about falling asleep and waking from a dream in a foreign country, and the airy “Moth to the Flame,” a gently throbbing lament about a foolish heart’s desire. The breeziness of the arrangements belie the meticulous approach to and emotive nature of the duo’s songwriting, the product of a nearly decade-long transition from twee indie pop trio in 2008 to synthpop experimentalists and Beyoncé songwriters — they contributed “No Angel” to the singer’s landmark 2013 LP — in more recent years.
“I feel like we’ve known that we could produce an album ourselves for a while, but we just didn’t,” claims fellow producer and instrumentalist Patrick Wimberly. “We wanted to work with other people, other producers, just as a learning experience before this. But on this record, it was time for us to do it ourselves. We had a lot of confidence going into it.”
That sense of confidence — triumph, even — is especially audible on album highlight “Ch- Ching,” a snap-and-clap shuffle buoyed by chimes and horn stabs that demonstrates Chairlift’s ability to convey meaning as much by music as by lyrics.
“I think it’s, quite simply, an expression of personal joy,” Polachek says of Moth’s emotional sonic language. “I was thinking, ‘Even if someone who’s listening to the album doesn’t speak English, can this music convey something personal, give them a feeling that they can understand?’ I was very inspired by that.”