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Music / Chairlift

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Patrick and Caroline, the two remaining members after Aaron left in 2010.

I've tried to headstands for you, but every time I fell for you
Permanently black and blue, permanently blue, for you...

Chairlift was a band formed in 2005 by two University of Colorado students with the initial aim to create “haunted house music”. The two students were Aaron Pfenning and Caroline Polachek, the latter who made quite a name for herself solo. But before that happened, in 2006, along with a bassist by the name of Kyle McCabe, they released an EP called Daylight Savings. Later that same year, the two members (one of them who was still in college) moved to Brooklynn. One year later, they signed to a records company, and added their new friend Patrick Wimberly as a third member.

In 2008, they released their first full-length album Does You Inspire You. The album received OK reviews, and was a commercial failure, but the love song "Bruises" became trending, even playing in the background of an Apple commercial. The music video for “Evident Utensil” was also nominated for an MTV award. Despite the technical failure of Does You Inspire You, in 2009, the band ended their contract with Kanine Records, and was able to sign to the major Columbia Records. They also opened for some popular bands like MGMT or The Killers.

Aaron left the band one year later. The remaining duo was silent for some time, but then they released their second album, by the name of Something (yes, that is the name of the album) in 2012 to moderate success (it debuted on the Billboard 200, albeit on the rear end). This one got much more praise from critics, and surprise: even Beyoncé liked it, so much so, that they would later work with her (and her sister, Solange). As it became popular in Japan also, the band released a Japanese version of “I Belong In Your Arms.”

For the next four years, the band didn’t really do much. Caroline went solo for some time, and released an EP in 2013, and in 2014 an album called Arcadia under the alias of Ramona Lisa.

The band made a comeback in 2016, with the more poppier and mainstream album Moth. This would be their last album to date: the duo dispersed in 2016, holding a farewell tour in 2017.

Afterwards, Caroline released an instrumental album under the alias of CEP, and in 2019 made her solo debut under her real name, which earned her much critical acclaim and success. She even worked with some well-known names like Charli XCX, Flume, and oh, she also appeared on the soundtrack to Minions: The Rise of Gru.

As for Patrick, he stayed working as a producer/songwriter, working with names such as MGMT, and Blood Orange.

The band is usually categorized as Synth-Pop, electropop, Dream Pop, and indie R&B.

The list of Chairlift’s discography:

  • Does You Inspire You (2008)
  • Something (2012)
  • Moth (2016)

Tropes applicable to Chairlift’s members, and its music:

  • Album Title Drop: Quite easy to accomplish with ‘’Something’’. The word appears on the song “I Belong in Your Arms”
  • Artistic License – Biology: In the “Crying in Public” video, Caroline’s tears freeze to her face in drop form and won’t fall down, which, even if we consider the New York weather, isn’t very possible.
  • Background Music: It was the original aim to play background music in haunted houses.
  • Déjà Vu: "Met Before" is about seemingly or already having met someone.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The music videos to “Polymorphing” and “Crying in Public” in some segments are this.
  • Dream Pop: Some songs from Does You Inspire You and Something are of this genre.
  • Driving Song: “Sidewalk Safari” is about… fantasizing of running over people on the sidewalk…with a car, of course.
  • Haunted House: They originally wanted to make music that would fit in a haunted house. The dreampop/eerie feel of their first two albums show this.
  • Homage: The "Amanaemonesia" music video is an homage to music videos from the The '80s.
  • Face on the Cover: Something.
  • Genre Throwback: Moth is an homage to Synth-Pop works of earlier decades.
  • Ghost Song: “Ghost Tonight”, from Something is from the perspective of a purported ghost. Although, it’s probably just someone trying to get noticed by their crush.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: The Japanese version of "I Belong In Your Arms." Though it was partially because Caroline lived in Japan as a child for a short time and grew up interested in Japanese culture.
  • Longest Song Goes Last: “No Such Thing as Illusion” is the longest track off Moth. It’s also the closing track.
  • Love Nostalgia Song: “Bruises”, most prominently.
  • Male Band, Female Singer: Double Subverted. For Does You Inspire You, Aaron added some vocals, but then he left, and Patrick never really sang, but by then Chairlift was also a duo.
  • Scatting: In "Met Before"
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: "Amanaemonesia" is a made up word, based on "amnesia."
  • Spin the Bottle: A group of young adults are playing this in the music video to “Bruises”.
  • Stage Names: Caroline Polachek released an album under the name of Ramona Lisa, while she was still a member of Chairlift.
  • Surreal Music Video: In the music video to “Polymorphing” Caroline poses with a bunch of one-meter long baguettes, bathes in sunglasses, and ties a rope around herself and dances, while Patrick irons a waffle.
  • Synth-Pop: Most of their music can be called as such, but the songs from Moth are clear examples.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Sometimes veers into this, like on "Amanaemonesia."
    The girl at the window covered in ashes
    Smiles grotesquely in the light of the day
    Singing in German, the cold summer warning
    But I can't remember what I meant to say