Good songs and a great sound, but a little too consistent for anything to be stand-out and noteworthy. A little same-y, though at least what the tracks share is that they're all decently enjoyable?
Chairlift are a band most recognised for their alt-pop sounding song ‘Bruises’ (“I tried to do handstands for you, I tried to do handstands for you”), but this refitted two piece first formed in 2005 have significantly changed their aesthetic. Now releasing their third album Moth, their sound is synth-pop touching on modern R&B. The band first formed with a view to creating the background music for haunted houses – and it’s this sort of odd influence that has somehow bled through a whole decade into their latest work.
Moth is an album so thematically strong that, on a first listen, it actually appears rather samey. Though all the tracks are pleasant, they can be fairly non-descript and difficult to distinguish from one another, bar their having ever so slightly different basslines and synth beats. With time, though, these definitely become clearer, and you can appreciate the subtlety at work. Moth is an album that benefits from being played as an entity from start to finish, allowing listeners to invest in the mood Chairlift create; commitment to a theme and ability to make such an atmosphere is definitely one of the album’s strong points, and you benefit from truly immersing yourself.
It’s unlikely any of the tracks will ever illicit that excited, “Man, I love this song!” reaction. Some are, however, definitely worthy of note. ‘Moth to the Flame’ has repeating refrains balanced with some fun lyrical quips – “I should know better than to take your love letters to heart” – which result in a carefully balanced blend of the two synth and pop halves the duo represent. ‘Cha-Ching’, as well, is a stand out. It plays from the beginning with this vague, indescribable ‘Eastern’ vibe, teasing you with it, before bringing out a solidly urban and recognisable R&B feel for the chorus with its catching refrain of repeating numbers. The latest single from the album, ‘Romeo’, inexplicably reminds me of both Marina & The Diamonds and Amy McDonald. Its synth elements touch on the uptempo, ethereal and almost orchestral. It’s a fun listen with a cute chorus. Almost all of the tracks are, actually, enjoyable – but none particularly stand out.
This is what makes it difficult to draw a conclusion on the album as a whole. Moth is a well constructed, well produced piece. It commits to a sound, a mood, and carries it off to perfection. It is thematically strong, with rhythms that naturally step up or down from song to song, atmospheric vocals and the occasional track just about noteworthy enough for you to clock. Every song is great when you’re listening to it, but I can’t imagine there are many you’ll be going hugely out of your way to replay individually.
Moth is curious and mysterious, but a little distant. It is the perfect motivating study music, or pre-drinking music, or cooking with it on in the background music. Those aren’t bad things, but they require music that’s about as impactful as Moth is on the whole. I wish I could be more positive about it because it is, honestly, not bad at all! It sounds great and the songs are good. It’s just… not outstandingly great. Its tracks are fun but they aren’t impactful. A thoroughly average score for a thoroughly average album.
Moth is out now via Columbia.