After spending almost 15 years of her musical career out of the spotlight, Caroline Polachek released her debut album, “Pang,” in her own image to massive critical success.
Polachek found success as part of the duo Chairlift and as a collaborator with artists such as Charli XCX and several other affiliates of PC Music — the hyperpop/ electronic record label out of London that spent 2019 setting trends and defining the ‘future’ of pop music. However, the singer-songwriter/producer quickly accumulated a dedicated fanbase: a fact that was strikingly clear throughout the album’s corresponding tour.
On Feb. 1, she played a sold-out show at The Fonda Theater to flocks of PC Music lovers and, now, Polachek fans. USC juniors Graham Drennan and Zak Baumann were familiar with Polachek’s past dabblings with the world of hyperpop and Charli XCX, and became instant fans of the album.
“‘Pang’ definitely put Caroline on the map for me and my friends that are also into the hyperpop music scene,” Baumann said. “When I saw she was playing Los Angeles this year I knew I had to go… the album was one of my favorites released last year.”
Clearly, Polachek knows her audience. To open the tour she brought along none other than A.G. Cook — hyperpop legend and founder of the esteemed record label PC Music.
“I had listened to “Pang” and really enjoyed it, but it was A.G.’s DJ set that really got me to buy a ticket,” student Albert Qian said. As an opening performer, he brought the night’s essential album to life by complementing the headliner’s passionate ballads with a DJ set on par with the rest of PC Music’s fun electronic sound.
When she did finally hit the stage, the energy emulating from both the crowd and the stage was tangible. “Pang” was Polachek’s breakout success as a solo artist — her previous acclaim had been largely anonymous — making this tour her first time in the genuine spotlight. The excitement for her total arrival as an artist was immediate, and the room swelled as she began, fittingly, with the album’s ambient opener “The Gate.”
Visually, Polachek appeared to gracefully float across the stage with her signature minimal yet perfectly executed choreography. And then during “Ocean of Tears,” she fell sharply from the stage and into the pit. In what is likely a testament to the night’s musical unity, she quickly hopped back on the stage and kept on singing — nobody hardly batted an eye. “I can’t believe I fell off the stage” she later joked after the set had already continued smoothly. Later she tweeted: “LA, I fell hard for you last night.”
Polacheck proceeded to essentially play “Pang” in its entirety. Typically these kinds of decisions tend to bore or annoy an audience, but it felt nothing more than appropriate to underline the album’s importance in Polachek finally having her own name in lights. She broke the sequence only to play covers of songs she wrote for The Corrs and Charli XCX, as well as the song “No Angel” that she co-wrote with Beyoncé.
Even her impeccable songwriting was brought to life as she gave the audience a lengthy but yet unwaveringly captivating description of the dream that led to the creation of “Parachute.” Ultimately, she concluded, “you never know honestly how you get the ways in which you’re gonna survive. It’s not really up to us.” Often these tangents can leave the audience waning, but the room in that moment was captivated by her every word, begging for more.
By the night’s end, the audience could confidently leave knowing they had gotten what they came for: Polachek had united an audience with a mutual love for her work and the music scene stirring around hyperpop, making her album come fully to life in a unique and tangible form.