The third spot on the list of the top 50 albums of 2023 goes to Caroline Polachek’s “Desire, I Want to Turn Into You.”


This album opens with a captivating showcase of Caroline Polachek’s vocal talents. Starting with soft, soothing tones, she then transitions to lower, faster notes that intensify as she reaches her vocal limit. With a traditional Celtic vocalization, she effortlessly soars to the whistle register, reminiscent of Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande. As the song comes to an end, Polachek’s voice shines with a soulful flair before the drums enter and she greets us with the words, “Welcome to my island.”

It is exciting to be lifted into the air and carried by pure talent like this. In today’s pop music scene, there are many voices that sound similar – either full of pain and earthiness (for men), or exaggerated and artificial (for women) – which makes Polachek’s voice stand out even more. Throughout her fourth solo album, her vocal abilities are technically flawless as she effortlessly navigates complex melodies, almost like following the trail of a sparkler held by a young child. However, she never tries to show off. The essence of the song “Desire, I Want to Turn Into You” is conveyed through her vocal lines that reach high and low, bubbling with excitement, yearning for high notes, or occasionally speaking in a steady monotone. This is a story about the overwhelming power of desire, depicted through the flawless landscape of Polachek’s voice.

There are passionate, knowingly cheesy love letters: “You are my sunset, blazing red, eternally brave / And in your embrace, a comforting horizon,” repeats the chorus of Sunset, accompanied by flamenco guitar. “Intense love, feel my hug,” she croons on I Believe, igniting even more vocal pyrotechnics. Blood and Butter features a gloriously over-the-top couplet: “Let me plunge into your visage / For the most delightful type of suffering.” She is constantly diving, running, or soaring; volcanoes erupt multiple times throughout the album’s lyrics.

Polachek delves even deeper into her uniquely strange and intense style of poetry. In one surrealist moment on the track “Blood and Butter,” she croons, “Lying beneath a linden tree / Creating June with my navel ring / Where did you come from, you?” She has described her song “Crude Drawing of an Angel” as “scorny” – a combination of scary and horny – and its lyrics depict a specific scenario: “Watching someone wake up, unaware of being observed, while drawing them, knowing it may be the last time you see them.” In an attempt to convey the complexity and depth of her emotions, she invents words like “mythocological,” “cornucopeiac,” “Wikipediated,” and “hopedrunk.” It’s almost startling when she uses a simple metaphor on “Butterfly Net”: “There you were, with your mirror / Illuminating the world for me / And there I was with my butterfly net / Trying to capture your light.”

This is more intricate than most popular music on the charts. The artist’s most well-known song is “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” from 2019, which is easier to understand. Although her newer songs are extremely catchy, they may be too complicated for the general public to connect with, unlike Dua Lipa, whom Polachek has toured with. The production, mainly by Polachek and Danny L Harle, incorporates pop elements in unconventional and indirect ways. There are many playful combinations, such as 80s orchestral sounds with UK garage beats, contrasting eastern and western influences, and a collaboration between Dido and Grimes. These may come across as ironic, but they are genuinely heartfelt.

Polachek’s specialty could be described as being the poet for a group of technologically advanced individuals who carefully select aspects of culture that they appreciate wholeheartedly, rather than relying on irony which they find uninteresting or even negative. While others may complain and be in a bad mood by the pool, Polachek fully embraces life, finding joy in the shock of cold water, the tingling sensation on her skin, and the resulting clearness of thought.


You May Also Like

More From Author