Synthpop duo Chairlift to ignite Manila with their signature style

Whenever you hear the words, "critically acclaimed" used to describe an artist, you should take pause. Often, it’s simply rhetoric, typically reserved for the standard press release or some gushy review.

Telltale signs that provide insight towards the artist themselves are what to focus on. Do they write their own music? Many modern pop artists do not. Do they produce their own work? This task is usually handled by another entity entirely, it’s a business in itself. Have they done any solo work? Many musicians find it extremely challenging to go it on their own then to go back to a band – it’s a totally different animal. Are any of the members of the group multi-instrumentalists? It's a skill that many will never master. Any collaborations with the industry leaders? Respect from your peers, as in any profession, may be the ultimate compliment.

In the case of Chairlift, the answer to all these questions is a resounding yes.  

Chairlift is an American synthpop duo based in Brooklyn, New York, which consists of Caroline Polacheck (lead vocal duties and the synthesizer) and Patrick Wimberly (drums, keyboards, bass, guitar, and backing vocals). They met at college in Boulder, Colorado in 2005. Oddly enough, they also created live music as the background for haunted houses, which provides insight to their level of dedication as artists – most folks wouldn’t bother with such a thankless assignment.

They relocated, heading east, searching for somewhere to hone their craft, where new and unique ideas would be sought after by music aficionados. They eventually landed in New York City.

They’ve produced 3 albums to date, the latest being Moth, which was released earlier this year. Wimberly and Polachek wrote, recorded, and self-produced the entire album, with a little help on few tracks from Grammy-nominated LA producer, Robin Hannibal.

It was their song “Ch-Ching” that first caught my ear. With its interesting, almost vibrating bass, lively riffs, and catchy hook, it's certainly adrenaline-filled. Caroline’s R&B-inspired vocals are indeed impressive, grabbing the listeners' attention whether they like it or not.


“Bruises” is another ridiculously catchy song, with an incessant drum machine beat and sweet lyrics in a boy-girl duet format, a song that you may recognize from an Apple iPod TV commercial. 


Their music is vocally something akin to Kate Bush (listen to Chairlift's "Unfinished Business") or Sarah McLachlan mixed with something you might hear from an indie rock band like MGMT. An '80s-esque throwback sound, a recent trend in music today with bands like St Lucia, Yeasayer, or Tame Impala, yet creating a distinct style in this new breed of experimental indie pop.  


They’ve collaborated with the likes of Beyoncé on her self-titled album, via the track “No Angel,” which was written and produced by Caroline and co-produced by Patrick. Caroline released and toured with a self-produced solo album called Arcadia, under the alias Ramona Lisa and collaborated with SBTRKT, Blood Orange and others. 


On their second album, Something, they worked with producer Alan Moulder who has collaborated with Depeche Mode, My Bloody Valentine, and Nine Inch Nails. For the same album, they also worked with Dan Cary, who has produced albums for MIA, Franz Ferdinand, and Lily Allen, among others.

Patrick has produced and collaborated with artists such as Solange Knowles, Wet, and Tune-Yards.

Chairlift has opened for bands like Phoenix, The Killers and MGMT.  

They certainly have chalked up an impressive portfolio, but listen to their record and it’s remarkable to think that such a full sound is emanating from a duo. Their latest work may have a bit more emphasis on Caroline's hypnotic vocals then the previous albums, which tend to lean more towards a synthesized sound.

Ultimately, the reason why I’m drawn to this band is not necessarily the meticulously crafted work, the well thought-out instrumentation with a rich pop sound, or who they’ve worked with in the past. Rather, the vulnerability of the artists themselves. The multiple layers are somehow connected, familiar and catchy, yet unpredictable.

Their work is a series of pieces that hits in you in the heart with an honest approach, an insight to what the musicians are feeling. Creating such a connection is much easier said than done. One of the most challenging aspects of music is to be true to yourself, while being pulled in numerous directions from various sources, yet still connecting with the audience.

Now that they are on your radar, it’s a band that is well worth checking out. They’ll will be performing here in Manila at Black Market on December 1. I’m 99% certain that this will be one of these intimate concerts that you’ll kick yourself for later on if you miss it. –