There is a sense that in Chairlift we had one of the great unappreciated pop groups of the modern era. Perhaps it was something to do with the awkward name, their being associated with Apple early on, their slightly wacky approach to pop, or the fact that they’d take four years between records, but the breadth of admiration for Chairlift never reached as far as it should have. The announcement of the dissolution of the band went by in a flustered mumble rather than an impassioned outpouring, and even now as Caroline Polachek arrives with her first album under her own name, it almost feels like a drawback to introduce her as having been in Chairlift rather than simply recommending her as a new solo artist.

Nonetheless, none of that is holding back Polachek on PANG, and the popularity and quality of solo female artists in pop and indie has never been higher, so the timing is perfect. Even better, she hasn’t strayed too far from Chairlift’s synth-pop proclivities, and there’s even more of her idiosyncratic personality on show here. In Chairlift she was always up to slightly odd things – going on a ‘Sidewalk Safari’, ‘Polymorphing’ down the street, suffering from ‘Amanaemonesia’ – but here Polachek’s cartoonish vision of the world is turned on her own personal life, and we feel closer to her than ever.

The album’s title, PANG, sums up the feeling of the record succinctly and accurately; it’s full of overwhelming feelings of lust and longing that come over in sudden sharp bursts of pure feeling. Polachek herself has said: “Panging is used to describe hunger, desire, envy, nostalgia” – all of which are on full display throughout the record, punctuated by synth micro explosions or glossed with silken ribbons of electronics. The title track sums this up perfectly: over a simple blooping beat Polachek beseeches her lover to share secrets until they “pang!” right into each other in a fusion of emotions, a blast of joyous noise underscoring the moment.

This turning of intangible feelings into physical connections or barriers is one of the recurring motifs of PANG, and Polachek uses it to make the extremities of emotion hit with a blunt effectiveness. On the fluttering ‘Hit Me Where It Hurts’ she might describe herself as a “butterfly inside a plane”, but shortly after demands “go on and hit me in the heart/ hit me where it hurts,” and we feel the blow. In ‘Hey Big Eyes’ she’s siren-calling to her beloved, asking “hey big eyes, can you swim down to me?” amidst oozing layers of production. ‘Ocean of Tears’ is a song packed full of carnal desire, tortuously stretched by the distance between Polachek and her lover; the pain of sexual denial captured in the dextrous chorus: “Oh my god, I wanna know what it feels like to pull you close and tangle up with you real tight/ The only thing that's separating you and me tonight is an ocean of tears.”

Whereas with Chairlift she often gave off a devil-may-care attitude when relaying stories of love and passion, on her solo outing Polachek offers a more unguarded and honest excavation of her feelings, often leading to more sombre tracks than before. She asks “how far can you fall when you’re already down?” on the jarring ‘I Give Up’; on ‘Look At Me Now’ her lover sees her as “a hand grenade to throw away”; and ‘New Normal’ takes us through nightclubs, movie sets, blizzards and car crashes to describe the difficulty she’s having in maintaining her relationship. As good as those three are, a couple of other slower songs could have been cut, namely the ponderous ‘Insomnia’, which slows down the record at its mid-point, and the closing ‘Parachute’, which feels like an anti-climax after the excellence of the penultimate ‘Door’.

On the other side of the coin, Polachek’s vulnerability-outwards approach to this album also leads to some of the most unabashedly joyous songs she’s written. Aside from the aforementioned title track that arrives early on the record, the happiest moments are saved for a stretch towards PANG’s finale. The self-referential ‘Caroline Shut Up’ puts her adolescent urges right up front, asking “do I love you too much?” only to swat herself aside with the admission: “then I tell myself Caroline, SHUT UP!”, hitting every syllable with tangible glee. ‘So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings’ is about appreciating your partner’s x-rated appeal (rather than just lusting from afar, as the title suggests), and with the most pop-centric arrangement on the record, deserves to be the track that earns her the ears of the mainstream.

Then of course there’s ‘Door’; the first track to be shared from PANG and possibly the truest to Polachek’s feelings and abilities. Amidst a swirling melody, Polachek is walking the streets of the city, her mind being blown this way and that in a tug-of-war of feeling, admitting “sometimes I don’t know who I’m singing to.” But then, in a moment of revelation, she makes the spiritual connection to the one she’s yearning for, and the song breaks open: “you open a door to another door to another door to another door/ that I'm running through,” she sings in a beautiful loop, and possibilities are infinite.

She may describe herself as “just another girl in a sweater” and a “perpetual novice”, and she presents that rounded every-woman throughout PANG, making the collection feel true and empathetic. However, in her songwriting and singing abilities she sets herself apart as one of the most entertaining pop acts in the modern scene. Although she’s got a considerable back catalogue behind her, and she’s not exactly reinventing herself here, this feels like a new beginning for Caroline Polachek – and it’s an unmitigated delight and success.