More renowned for her indie synthpop stylings, the last few years have seen her focus shift into collaborations with avant-garde producers Danny L Harle and A.G. Cook, as well as a critically acclaimed appearance on Charli XCX’s 2017 mix tape Pop2. PANG, the result of her work with Harle and her first solo release under her real name, feels like a step into a lush, robotic future that perfectly marries her ethereal vocals with sublime, transcendent production.
At its core, PANG is about the deepness of longing. It’s not just in the name - pang, a jolt of emotional pain - but evident throughout each of the album’s fourteen tracks. There’s a much richer overall feel than her work with Chairlift, thanks in no small part to her classically-trained vocals; in Harle’s hands, her voice transcends - even the peppy 80s-inspired track So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings becomes a symphony under Caroline’s voice, and it’s hard to imagine the A.G. Cook-produced album highlight Ocean of Tears sung by anyone else.
It may not be as groundbreaking as one might expect from an album so directly linked with one of PC Music’s most prolific producers (PANG’s core sound undeniably owes a lot to Björk, Kate Bush and St. Vincent) but it’s hard not to see the beauty in Polachek’s major solo debut. A vibrant, futuristic soundscape punctuated by some of her most personal lyrics yet, this is easily one of 2019’s strongest alternative pop releases and one that feels like it could hold up for years to come.