The wait for a followup to Caroline Polachek's great 2019 debut solo album Pang is finally over. The former Chairlift singer released its first single "Bunny Is A Rider" all the way back in 2021, and since rolled out four more of the album's 12 songs, and now Desire, I Want To Turn Into You is here its entirety. From the M83-ish "Welcome To My Island" (which opens the album) to the Caribbean rhythms of "Bunny Is A Rider" to the flamenco-pop of "Sunset" to the Celtic bagpipes in "Blood and Butter" to the stuttering production and choir vocals of "Billions," it was clear from the singles alone that Desire has a lot of range and the rest of the album follows suit. One section towards the end of the album seamlessly ranges from ambient pop ("Hopedrunk Everasking") to folk-pop ("Butterfly Net") to trip-hop ("Smoke") without missing a beat. One song ("Fly To You") fuses breakbeats with folk guitar and features guest vocals from Grimes and Dido, two artists who helped pave the way for Caroline's music in entirely different ways. "[Dido's] way of blending a quite natural, almost folk approach to pop singing with a very contemporary electronic production was very influential for me," Caroline said in a recent Vulture feature. Caroline's mix of acoustic and electronic instrumentation has also already gained Desire multiple comparisons to Madonna's Ray of Light, while her vastly impressive haters-will-say-it's-auto-tuned vocal runs gain her comparisons that range from Björk to Enya to Imogen Heap. They're all seemingly accurate forebears, and they're tempting comparisons to make when you hear someone using their voice as creatively as Caroline does, but more so than any musical similarities, Caroline is getting mentioned in the same breath as those and other boundary-pushing artists because of the way she makes pop music entirely on her own terms.

"I’ve always really believed in the idea of alternative with a capital-A," she recently told The Guardian. "Growing up listening to artists like Fiona Apple, Kate Bush and Björk and seeing these women who claimed a lot of attention, seemingly without compromise, felt so aspirational to me. Growing this project is a cool adventure: how can I do it in a way that feels like I still have all of my creative sovereignty and also my privacy?" She ruffled some feathers by saying she's annoyed by being called "this generation's Kate Bush" and that rather she is "this generation's Caroline Polachek," but--in addition to that being a way less serious comment than some people took it--Desire walks the walk. She doesn't sound like she's following anyone's rules but her own, and her progressive, adventurous style of alt-pop has turned her into a star despite it not sounding anything like the genre's latest trends. Caroline largely wrote Desire on her own and co-produced most of it with former PC Music affiliate Danny L Harle, and it otherwise features just a few other contributions, from Jim-E Stack and Dan Nigro on "Welcome to My Island," Sega Bodega on "Sunset," and Ariel Rechtshaid on "I Believe." Fresh off touring with Dua Lipa and singing on popular singles by Charli XCX and Flume, Caroline was in a position where she could've easily gone full-on Top 40, but Caroline's music has only gotten more experimental as her 15+ year career goes on, and Desire doubles down on that. It's some of the most forward-thinking and best music she's ever made.

Desire, I Want To Turn Into You is out now Sony/The Orchard/Perpetual Novice. Stream it and watch some videos below. She's also currently on a headlining tour, which hits NYC on May 20 at Radio City Music Hall with Ethel Cain.


More From Brooklyn Vegan