Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

Caroline Polachek – Door

A door that leads to the sidebar…

Hannah Jocelyn: The Singles Jukebox has changed a lot since I started reading the site six years ago, even since I started writing for it three years ago. Sofi De La Torre, who could have performed this, has underwhelmed since “Vermillion,” a song I never loved like those writers did. Chairlift disbanded. PC Music cohorts inspire relative indifference instead of controversy. The verbose electro pop this site once championed is just called Spotifycore now, and this could be mistaken for an above-average example. This is smart, with an addicting Matryoshka chorus. Polachek’s phrasing and melodic tics are so instantly recognizable — back in the CITy i’m just aNOTher girl in a SWEATer sorry I’m CRYing in pubLIC this way  that if this were billed as Danny L Harle, I could guess the vocalist credits unseen (though Harle’s restrained production is uncharacteristic of anything PC Music-related). But the chorus is so sweeping it feels dated; pop music of all sorts is now defined by detachment, not sweeping, romantic gestures. Years ago, this would have topped the sidebar, but now it’s more nostalgic than anything else.

Leah Isobel: This kind of arty, airy synth-pop is usually critical catnip; I guess I’m the critic. I’m not sure that the central hook lands on the right side of the catchy/irritating border, but the track’s slow expansion and collection of dreamy, romantic lyrical images always snags me by the time Caroline does her characteristic flights of vocal fancy in the final minute.

Katherine St Asaph: Judging by “Door,” it was the opposite of surprising to learn that Caroline Polachek got into opera via baroque music, Handel specifically. (Or even more specifically, the Antichrist recording of “Lascia ch’io pianga,” in which she heard a “roughness,” though I’m not sure if that’s the quality of the recording, the singer’s relatively straight tone, the fact that the singer’s a mezzo, or just the fact that it soundtracked a Lars Van Trier sex scene.) It’s not because “Door” is any sort of “baroque pop” — a term that’s long since had any meaning diluted away in favor of “pop, but like, artsy” — but because of her vocals, the precise staccato and controlled vocal jumps. When she goes into more traditional melisma toward the end, it almost ruins the effect; but then again, it wouldn’t be out of place in the sort of New Age/classical crossover ballads that the chorus suggests, and that still unduly move me.

Alfred Soto: Skilled at assembling the parts from three decades of electropop, Caroline Polachek releases her best track since “I Belong in Your Arms.” Her fluting voice is the key: when she abandons it for outro acrobatics, she persuades me that she learned it from Beyonce.

Vikram Joseph: Its branches hanging thick with imagery of rebirth, rediscovery and romantic redemption, “Door” feels musically self-reflexive — endearingly awkward, off-kilter verses letting themselves fall into the open arms of the chorus, a swan dive into a deep pool of possibilities. I love the reckless hyperbole of a line like “Waking up sore and dizzy from a ten-year concussion,” pinning the salvation of an entire decade on a new lover — hopeless romanticism at its finest, but kept in equilibrium by Polachek admitting that she “waited for the drop.” Because who knows when the floor’s going to fall through; for now, though, there are only doors concealing untold wonders, and when Polachek walks through them on the shimmering infinity-mirror of a chorus, it feels like we’re with her.

Ian Mathers: I definitely resisted “Door” at first; it seemed to last forever, but not in a good way, and aside from noting that element (“wait, is this still the same song?”) the only comment it got when I played it at home was a not-positive one that it sounded like 2008 never went away (I’d add, in a more neutral sense, that the “back in the city” bits still make me think of Nellie McKay). And yet, in order to give it a fair shot for the Jukebox, after going through what felt like the equivalent of being trapped in a room with it, “Door” started sounding patient, inexorable, generous even, instead of just… long. By the time I noticed the bit near the end where the backing track takes on sampled slivers of Polachek’s voice, I was a convert. Still sounds like 2008 though.

William John:Do you like my tight sweater?” mused a certain beloved pop ingénue almost twenty-four years ago. For Caroline Polachek, a sweater is at once less and more than a punchline for use in a bar; it signifies ordinariness, but it can also be camouflage for emotion, as the only thing that can be put on when you’re lost and alone and inert in the face of great change. Polachek walks dolefully through the verses of “Door” amidst whirring, dying computers, ruminating on such matters in a way that’s scrupulous and circular. But all confusion, dizziness and impulse for inquisition dissipates at the chorus, where it becomes clear that “Door” is as much about gratitude as it is about grief. Polachek’s use of repetition and an evocative, idiosyncratic vocal suggests that there’s hope of life amongst the wreckage, that endings can be beginnings and that we might still be mired in the prequel.

Danilo Bortoli: For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been obsessing over Clarice Lispector’s final novel The Hour of the Star, reading and rereading chunks of it before going to sleep. That’s been happening for a while now, not because I love its story, encapsulated in less than a hundred pages, but because I’m enamored by Lispector’s style and her unique way to make banal words sound unique. Most of the times, I stick to the ending, which depicts the death of Macabea, the book’s antihero, a poor, unlucky girl living in Rio. But “Door,” the best song Caroline Polachek has ever released (alongside Patrick Wimberly or not), makes me go back to the beginning, in a line as humble as provocative: “Let no one be mistaken. I only achieve simplicity with enormous effort.” Clarice speaks of effortlessness as a miracle in here. Easily enough, within Chairlift, Caroline made some of the best “baroque” pop of this decade, a quality that can be misread as simply too much polish. Instead, she made nostalgia seem like a simple task. Here, Polachek acts the same way: on the surface, “Door” can sound over the top, even overproduced (thank Danny L Harle and Jim E-Stack on that matter). Still, this giganticness feels justified, even necessary. And when you get past its wall of sound and verbose pre-chorus, all becomes quite simple: “Door” is, by the time the chorus hits, a mantra, a word that, in sheer repetition, promotes catharsis, a diversion Lispector also knew quite well. Hence, her best quote, summarising why I’m writing this: “To think is an act. To feel is a fact.” And I’m lost in the metaphors.

Reader average: [8.9] (11 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

4 Responses to “Caroline Polachek – Door”

  1. In the late 90’s I worked at a place that had Moloko’s “Fun for Me” on the jukebox and I LOATHED it. I have never heard another Moloko song as a result. However, now William John has nudged me into trying out some more Moloko. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  2. I am in awe that someone old enough to have had a job in the 90s has never heard “Sing It Back”.

  3. Yeah, I’m listening to it now and I’m 100 percent unfamiliar.

  4. The little 5-note melody of “back in the city” in this song sounds so much to me like the little 5-note melody with which Joni Mitchell sings the phrase “night in the city” in Night in the City (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCXOs8ZBmRM) that I wonder if it’s an intentional nod.