Throughout her tenure as the lead singer and keyboardist of the experimental indie rock outfit Chairlift, Caroline Polachek offered her atmospheric take on synthy, arty pop. It's a sound she expanded upon with her solo projects, including 2014's Baroque Arcadia (released as Ramona Lisa) and 2017's ambient-leaning Drawing the Target Around the Arrow (issued as CEP). With 2019's Pang, her first album released under her own name, Polachek further distills her approach with a collection of deeply emotive songs that showcase her delicate vocals and intricate pop sensibilities. Helping her achieve this deft balance of art and emotion is British producer Danny L. Harle. Together, they craft arrangements that straddle the line between moody electronica and adult contemporary pop. Cuts like the soulfully fractured "I Give Up," the yearning acoustic ballad "Look at Me Now," and the icy, hip-hop-tinged "Ocean of Tears" bring to mind the languid sophistication of icons like Kate Bush, Imogen Heap, and Annie Lennox, while remaining true to Polachek's own distinctive artistic voice. On Pang, one gets the sense that Polachek has come through a dark period of personal and creative transformation and is writing directly from that experience. She details the end of a relationship on "Look at Me Now," singing "Now my friends all tell me, 'Girl, you're getting skinny. Have you not been sleeping?'/How could I be?" She further encapsulates these feelings of change on "Hit Me Where It Hurts," singing "I'm feeling like a butterfly trapped in a plane/Maybe there's something going on/I'm not insane." There's also a vivid conceptuality to Polachek's work here. The opening "The Gate" is a shimmering flagship song that evokes a mythic sense of rebirth, as if Polachek is about to embark on a journey of discovery. It's that personal artistic voice cracking through the beautiful scrim of her conceptual artifice that makes Pang so compelling.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar