Pang, by Caroline Polachek
There are a lot of artists and albums and songs that I would likely not check out unless I was asked to do so. There are a fair number of reasons for this, the most salient being that there is a lot of music that has been released and is constantly being released, and I only care about a certain subset of that and will only devote time to listening to new stuff that I do not already know and like unless I can get something out of it, namely at least a conversation with other people about such music. Sometimes I find such opportunities to be enjoyable ones in terms of discovering new songs, albums, and acts that I was unfamiliar with and want to get to know better, and sometimes I see music that other people like that I simply do not care for as much as they do. Caroline Polacheck is a pop/art-pop sort of artist who is popular among a certain amount of online acquaintances for various reasons, and though I only know of one her songs going into it, we will see if this is an album worth celebrating or simply worth knowing about.
The album begins with an intro, “The Gate,” which sounds really interesting, with a bit of a haunting techno feel to it. “Pang,” the title track follows, and isn’t quite as good, appearing to be about the relationship between the singer and someone else where there appears to be reciprocity of some kind. “New Normal” is a reflection on the alienating experience of what appears to be a change of life, and the singer appears to find this new normal to be a bit unpleasant, it must be admitted. “Hit Me Where It Hurts” has a catchy pre-chorus and chorus but a pretty minimalistic and dull set of verses, it must be admitted. “I Give Up” sounds like the sort of song that Haim would do well, with a discussion of falling for someone and giving in to them. “Look At Me Now” is another fairly downbeat look at how a particular crush or relationship has made someone look skinny enough to concern their friends about the general decrepitude. “Insomnia” is a rather trippy song that expresses the unhappiness of not being able to sleep and is one of the most genuinely experimental songs on here, a lot like the intro in its vibe. “Ocean Of Tears” features more somewhat trippy moans and wails, and it again is one of the more interesting songs here at least. “Hey Big Eyes” seems to be a positive and loving sort of song, which is admittedly rare here. “Go As A Dream” is a slow, dreamlike ode to how a lover leaves her life as a dream, and the music really fits here. “Caroline Shut Up” is a song about a complicated set of feelings for a partner, including some worthwhile self-criticism. “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” is an upbeat and cute song about her interest in someone, and was the only song I knew before listening to this and certainly a standout. “Door” is a somewhat repetitive but also somewhat dreamlike song about the complexity of a partner who has a lot of layers that the singer is enthusiastic about running through. “Parachute” is another dreamscape of a song that hovers between a dream and a nightmare.
I have mixed feelings about this album, having listened to it. On the one hand, the production of this album is particularly spare, sounding like the music of 2018 (it was released in 2019, so it makes sense at least), and that is generally a bad thing, because the lyrics to these songs are so boring and monotonous and repetitive that one wants the music to give you something else to grab onto but instead you get this sort of dark, slow, dreamlike vibe in most of the songs that gives you lots of negative spaces but not a lot of positive sounds to distract you from the basic lyricism. By and large this is a pretty basic album that is not nearly as experimental as it thinks it is, but if you’re looking for an album to help you feel calm and relax and ready to sleep, and you don’t have something like Donna Lewis available, this will do in a pinch I suppose. It’s more about vibes than bops, though, if that makes sense.