Song of the Week breaks down and talks about the song we just can’t get out of our head each week. Find these songs and more on our Spotify Top Songs playlist. For our favorite new songs from emerging artists, check out our Spotify New Sounds playlist. This week, Caroline Polachek digs into sun-soaked desire on “Blood and Butter.”
How many pop stars have the audacity to seamlessly stick a bagpipes solo in the bridge of their new single? Very few, and Caroline Polachek has beaten them all to it — but her new single “Blood and Butter,” the fifth off her upcoming album Desire, I Want to Turn Into You (due Tuesday, February 14th), does not possess the carnal shock that its title suggests. Instead, there’s a euphoric freedom that Polachek creates with, a sun-soaked brightness that shines through warm acoustic guitar chords and earthy congas.
“Blood and Butter” seems to blend highlights of previous Desire singles: she brings the fantastical majesty of “Billions,” complete with a larger-than-life chord structure that evokes discovery, as well as the predominately organic instrumentation from last fall’s “Sunset.” If an overarching theme of Desire is “Welcome To My Island,” then Caroline has been slowly building out what this island looks, feels, and sounds like.
But of course, desire itself is a deep focus on “Blood and Butter.” The air of exploring new territory is a perfect backdrop for the adoration she depicts in her lyrics; she isolates these surreal moments of sex, wonder, and feeling wildly in sync with her partner, painting magnificent images of intimacy with an impressionistic pen. It’s not enough for Polachek to be physically close — so she’s diving “through your face/ To the sweetest kind of pain” and getting “closer than your new tattoo.”
Polachek’s lyrics are getting so specific and acute that reading them feels jarring, but hearing them from her tender, versatile voice feels strangely perfect. “Look at you all mythological/ And Wikipediated,” she sings in the third verse, as if the combination of being mythological and “wikipediated” is exactly what she’s attracted to. There’s a luxuriousness that moves far beyond the rich, heavy imagery of “blood and butter” — she sings of a fullness and a sense of being complete with plainspoken detail, requesting in the pre-chorus, “And what I want/ Is to walk beside you/ Needing nothing/ But the sun that’s in our eyes,” and later pointing out, “Look how I forget who I was/ Before I was the way I am with you.”
Throughout the soaring epiphanies of desire in “Blood and Butter,” there’s a thrilling reminder: nobody is making pop music like Caroline Polachek right now. Last month, Polachek reminded her fans and press that she is “Not this generation’s Kate Bush… I, meanwhile, am this generation’s Caroline Polachek.” Though comparisons between fellow avant pop icons will always be abound, each new single off Desire, I Want to Turn Into You falls into Polachek’s fascinating and original vision of pop music. There’s frequently something about her music that feels off — almost like the grey area of artificial intelligence where there’s tension between the pinpoint perfection of her melodies and the unmistakeable humanity at the center of it.