Chairlift formed back in the pre-streaming days of 2005, when artists still chased success with major-label deals and songs in iPod commercials. These highbrow Brooklyn synth-popsters did both — they’re on Columbia, and 2008’s cutesy “Bruises” helped Apple move a few Nanos — and yet they’re still on the scene, bending ’80s sounds to their eclectic will.
Now more than ever, singer Caroline Polachek and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Wimberly have time on their side. In a world where Katy Perry tweets props to dream-pop oddballs Purity Ring and Beck, and Sia and Taylor Swift make electro-flavored hits that fit neatly on the same playlists, Chairlift is part of the furniture. On new album Moth, the follow-up to 2012’s Something, Polachek and Wimberly seem to relish their good luck, layering hooks and beats with a kooky exuberance that was missing last time out.
“Who’d have thought I’d be the one that got away with it?” sings Polachek on “Ch-Ching,” an operatically trained indie girl’s take on hip-hop swagger. She’s probably not referring to the big payday that she and Wimberly received after writing and producing “No Angel” for Beyoncé’s self-titled 2013 album, but you can imagine Bey digging the song’s sub-bass rumble, hand claps and sassy brass.
“Ch-Ching” is one of three songs co-produced by Robin Hannibal, the Danish studio ace behind smooth-operating soul duos Quadron and Rhye. It’s too bad Hannibal wasn’t more involved — his contributions are the loosest of the bunch. “He’s that kind of man, momma,” says Polachek on “Moth to the Flame,” a nod to Madonna’s “Holiday.” Hannibal’s other assist, “Show U Off,” is vintage Prince, from the title’s spelling right down to its disco guitars and come-hither falsettos.
Left to its own devices, Chairlift grabs jazzy-funky horns for the perky highlight “Polymorphing” and likens love to a foot race on the endorphin-boosting synth-punk workout “Romeo.” The band only goes astray with the balladry of “Crying in Public” and “Unfinished Business” — saccharine reminders that 30-year-old Polachek grew up and learned about love in the time of Sarah McLachlan. If Apple doesn’t want those, Kleenex might.