SXSW 2016: Chairlift merges hip-hop swagger and synth-pop

Chairlift merges synth-pop sensiblities with hip-hop swagger at SXSW 2016.

At some point during the past year New York’s Charlift went and not-so secretly became a great band — a transition showcased Thursday at night two of three at the YouTube Music at the Coppertank. You might say, “I liked those guys. They were in an iPod commercial!” But then you’d recall that while the iPod itself may have changed the world, bands featured in those iconic silhoutetted TV spots did not. Besides, it’s not that the Chairlift of beiger days past was bad so much as the Chairlift of today is so, so very good.

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Chairlift has the crowd moving #SXSW

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The duo has acheived synth-pop perfection in trading perfectly palatable and pretty for soulful and pulsing with toe-tapping life. The band’s four live members (the core duo are joined by drums and honking saxophone) were dressed in black and white, but Chairlift, at their shiny, new best, is full-on technicolor.

The New York-based band seems to be following an anti-SXSW band story arc, swapping the classic “I liked the first album better” narrative for an “after years of making music, the band eventually got better at what they do” story, a rare but tantilizing tale.

Singer Caroline Polachek’s voice comes out all sugar-coated ribbons, delicate porcelain that’s simulataneously party friendly with a healthy hip-hop swagger. Live she whipped her two-foot ponytail about and moved like a hybrid creature who’s part ballerina, part Beyoncé. (Speaking of: Set closer “Ch-Ching” is about as close to a Beyoncé-caliber banger you’ll get from someone who isn’t Beyoncé.) Other songs in the set included the upbeat “Romeo,” “Sidewalk Safari,” the delicate “Crying in Public,” which Polachek described as “the most literal of song titles,” and previously unreleased slow jam “Get Real.”

Author: Eric Pulsifer

Austinite and lover of new music, dinosaur doodles, good beer and breakfast foods. Blogs at Tweets at @SupercoolEric.

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