Monday, October 14th, 2019

Caroline Polachek – So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings

This, though, we think should be a hit now.


Wayne Weizhen Zhang: i feel personally attacked by this relatable content

Julian Axelrod: Caroline Polachek has spent most of her career trying to hide Caroline Polachek. She’s operated within bands, under monikers, and behind other artists, parceling out pieces of her genius but never showing her full hand. “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” is Caroline’s coming out and coronation, a reintroduction to her astonishing range of talents for anyone who forgot. It’s also a full-bodied bop, sleek and lithe without sparing an ounce of impact. The gleaming 80s prom synths and cave sprite backing vocals promise a pop fantasia, but her bleakly hilarious cries for connection feel like a sendup of diva desperation. The most thrilling moment might be the bridge, when her wordless wail is vocodered into oblivion. Ironically, Polachek obfuscates her voice to create her most singular expression to date. And when she’s done, all you can do is gasp.

Hazel Southwell: Wow Frou Frou are back right in time to soundtrack my mid-thirties breakdown as well as the mid-twenties one! Except this also has a nice bit of chugging Fleetwood-Mac-by-way-of-HAIM guitar so it’s tickling all kinds of aesthetic pressure points. It gained a whole two points from me for the embarrassing sax solo in the breakdown, that’s a real stomach-curling squirm of a crush right there.

Oliver Maier: “So Hot” doesn’t push into exciting new frontiers like “Door” and “Ocean of Tears” did. Indeed, the “The Middle”-esque vocoding on the hook and relatively conventional arrangement suggest a mainstream sensibility that isn’t so much absent from Pang‘s other singles as it is wrestled into Polachek’s own pop framework. Here she’s mostly content to play ball, and the result is a straightforwardly great song, still with enough eccentric turns of phrase (“X-rated dreaming”!), sticky melodies and frenzied vocal solos to stay a step ahead of the competition. I could see the abundant quirkiness being grating to those less convinced by the elegant architecture of C-Po’s songcraft, but I’m helplessly charmed by both.

Alfred Soto: Fans of Haim’s precisely deployed synth chug will warm to Caroline Polachek’s latest single: 2013 as 1987. She’s gotten more assured since the Chairlift days: check out the vocal distorted unto death and into a solo.

Michael Hong: Caroline Polachek is trying to keep her composure. She’s out at the party, attempting to be cool, attempting to live her life. But at the same time, she’s quietly suffering, counting the days her partner’s been gone. “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” is as slick as the best of Chairlift, with lines worthy of its title, like “I cry on the dance floor, it’s so embarrassing,” delivered without an ounce of self-pity but with Polachek’s biting humour. Her attempts to appear collected fail from the outset, but her frustrations come to head on the chorus when she sings “get a little lonely babe” and the desperation and desire in her voice become palpable. Polachek’s composed vocals over the heavily processed ad-libs perfectly capture the mental anguish of a long-distance relationship, her outward poise giving way to the inward chaos.

Kayla Beardslee: I’ve been listening to “Door” a lot lately (a 10, by the way), and one of the many things that’s grabbed me about the song is how impressively detailed it is: I’m still discovering nuances in the production after a double-digit number of listens. “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” is a less complex experience than “Door” — a name-brand lollipop instead of a box of chocolate truffles — but it has the same attention to detail that makes playing it over and over and paying close attention so rewarding. The three claps in the verses, the “aah-aah”s panning right and left, the electric guitar strum (I think) at the end of the chorus, the gasps and “Woo!”s peppered throughout — god, inject this shit straight into my veins. And, of course, Polachek’s vocals are on point, even behind the tasteful vocoder; her voice climbing and falling on “it’s so emBArrassing” is an entire journey on its own. “So Hot” is sparkly synthpop designed to go down easy, but there’s substance in it too, for those who want to look for it. 

Isabel Cole: The lyrics unfortunately don’t live up to the OTT promise of the excellent title, squashing my hopes for something exuberantly agitated along the lines of an emotion I still only know how to describe as “blogging about One Direction in 2013” in favor of a fairly banal exploration of the angst inherent to long-distance love. I do like the burbling production, with its funny little stream of disembodied vowels winding through behind the verses.

Joshua Lu: An adroit tiptoe along the line between horny and tender, unconcerned with appearing too desperate or silly — or with enunciating properly.

Will Adams: There’s a certain melodrama that comes with relating embarrassment (“I could have just DIED!”), particularly with intense crush feelings for a former flame, that “So Hot” nails. It’s there in the gasp before the final chorus, the way Polachek’s distorted vocal wails as the backing vocals murmur “show me the banana” and the song’s title. While the previous Pang singles took time to wiggle their way into my head, “So Hot”‘s charms are immediate.

Kylo Nocom: The Aces via Forevher era Shura shouldn’t sound endearing, yet Polachek is a vocalist and songwriter entertaining enough to sell it completely. “X-rated dreaming” is a clunky phrase, but I’m obviously reaching, damn it: the song exists for the title and it’s a great one.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Caroline Polachek makes music that is almost too perfectly formed– rhythms that sound like perfect tessellations, dazzling vocal performances with leaps and runs that are almost inhuman, synths that sound wrought from glass. The only thing preventing it from being intolerable is the stuff she’s singing about, the fundamental vocabulary of longing that her work, whether solo or in Chairlift (RIP), speaks. “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” is just another manifestation of a running theme in her work, but it stands out for its directness and messiness– she’s not just crying in public but on the dancefloor, pining in ways that are almost outside of society. It doesn’t all work on the record (the bananas on the bridge are a little hokey) but it feels so deep it can’t be avoided.

Stephen Eisermann: A sexy little song that owes much of its sex appeal to Caroline’s voice, the harmonies, and my god that production. It’s crisp and clean, like the white dress shirt my fantasy man wears; the one I thought of as I closed my eyes and listened to this song. Lust in song form, this one.

Hannah Jocelyn: So good it’s hurting my feelings: I keep wanting to save my [10]s for songs that feel Big and Important, like “Slip Away” or “The Joke.” Maybe something that doesn’t have immediate political importance but stands on its own, like “Cellophane.” (Being co-written by a transgender woman when the Supreme Court is about to decide whether transgender people can be fired on the basis of their identity might qualify this song, but I don’t want to reduce Teddy Geiger to her gender.) From the opening line, which seems to swipe from Robin Williams’ character in mid-2000s Blue Sky Studios comedy Robots, it’s clear that this isn’t exactly a deep song. Instead, “So Hot” is perfectly goofy songwriting, down to a bridge where Polachek chants “show me the banana, na na na na na” while also performing a guitar solo with her voice. Even better, it’s a three and a half minute pop song, so it doesn’t have time to meander like “Door.” There isn’t anything personal or political about this, but that doesn’t even seem to cross Polachek and co’s mind. Losing oneself in a pop song is just about the most overused trope in all of music criticism, but there’s something to not being serious or even defiantly silly. It’s just fun for the sake of fun, which is hard to justify as a [10]. Except maybe that was the whole point of this poptimism thing. In that case…

Reader average: [9.21] (23 votes)

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7 Responses to “Caroline Polachek – So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings”

  1. oh i just noticed the image here matches the lizzo one!! fun

  2. From the syncopation of the synths that have a chasse-through-the-sunshine giddiness to the restraint of the chorus’ first two lines, layered harmonies filling in the space where blushing infatuation should be, Polachek makes love seem so unlabored and care-free without losing some of its disarming qualities. After all, those glances across the hallway are still as electrifying as the bridge’s guitar riffs, and there’s no better line that screenshots post-date, spill-the-details-to-your-best-friend excitement than the chorus: “Can’t deal.”

  3. I’m glad one of y’all clocked her enunciation, it’s the same way on Ocean of Tears

  4. the freeform sarah brightman-esque workouts on the LP are stunning.

  5. had to check whether I sleep-posted under another name

    (also, check this space tomorrow)

  6. our thanksgiving header just made me realize this was never added to the sidebar!

  7. For that matter, these songs haven’t been added to the sidebar, either: Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now” [7.89], Roisin Murphy’s “Incapable” [7.75], Tinashe’s “Die a Little Bit” [7.57], Haim’s “Now I’m In It” [7.54], Ngaiire’s “Shiver” [7.45], and Sudan Archives’ “Glorious” [7.44].