Reviewing Caroline Polachek feels like I’m trying to unravel an enigma. I adore her music – from the way she makes liberal use of her head voice, to the sometimes inexplicable lyrics, to the ethereal persona she exudes. Caroline’s solo career was born into the world with a fully realised aesthetic and sound that no other pop star today comes close to.
Her debut album Pang is an endlessly brilliant piece of work that explored the minute moments of the births and ends in a relationship, while her first single after – “Bunny Is A Rider”, was a departure from her usual other-worldly sound in favour of more contemporary pop production. Yet no matter the stylistic detours she takes, her songwriting remains unfazed – always captivating and alluringly profound.
“Billions” follows in the footsteps of “Bunny” – abstract imagery that’s more interested in setting the stage for the track’s themes than leaving listeners with a clear impression of what it is she aims to convey. In a press statement, Caroline sums it up by claiming “the overabundance of this world overwhelms me”.
“Sometimes it seems like ultimate tragedy, the earth being pillaged and destroyed for it. Sometimes it seems pre-human, beyond morality, sublime. I don’t pick sides, I just live here, with you. How does it feel, being so rich?”
Always the multifaceted artist, the “Billions” music videos paints a more vivid picture. It opens with Caroline picking grapes into an already overflowing cornucopia (a Latin symbol for abundance), the most on-the-nose visual metaphor of the video. Then, it delves into scenes that completely fly over my head, such as the ones in the bathtub and wine glasses.
It ends with a call for revolution in a world that’s been turned on its head by those in power. A conclusion that doubles as an exciting departure from the personal-charged nature of her debut material.
Still, the crown jewel of “Billions” lies in Caroline’s breathtaking performance. With production from frequent collaborator Danny L Harle, her ambling crooning throughout is par for the course in her music, which is to say that it’s still very fucking good. Over its 5 minute runtime, the song sees a plethora of switch-ups that keeps it engaging without coming off as gimmicky.
A verse that’s taken down a whole octave, a chorus that retreats from the graceful buildup prior like a calm receding wave, and a gorgeous outro performed by the Trinity Croydon Choir – “Billions” feels like Caroline’s masterful sound on Pang elevated to a whole new level.
I could just be living in a bubble, but really, I don’t think there are many artists that really operate on the same playing field as Coraline Polachek right now.