Review : Hot Chip - In Our Heads
PitchforkIt's easy to forget that, when they first started out, Hot Chip operated with a devilish grin. "I'm like Stevie Wonder/ but I can see things," Alexis Taylor sang on "Keep Fallin'", from the band's 2004 debut, Coming on Strong. In the same breath he compared himself and compatriot Joe Goddard to Gene and Dean Ween: "We're like brothers who make records who can't play things." There was a boast about blasting Yo La Tengo from expensive cars, a heartbroken lament centered around prepackaged macaroni and cheese, and a cheeky proclamation about remembering Prince play with Vanity 6 when the narrator was still in diapers. And, I mean, that album title: If naming a fairly minimalistic, handmade electro-soul album Coming on Strong isn't having a laugh, then I don't know what is.
Over the years, Hot Chip retained their sense of humor, largely in the visual sense (funhouse torture devices, boy bands getting attacked by laser beams), but something not-so-funny also started to take place: As they perfected a savvy alchemy of dance and modern pop, their music became more serious. Amidst the big, beating heaters, dancefloor deconstructions, and "Simpsons"-soundtracking anthems, there emerged sincere ruminations on love, protection, and the pleasure that one derives from simply experiencing life, all of which were fully realized on 2010's excellent One Life Stand. The band's most concise and uniformly gorgeous album to date, One Life Stand also represented Hot Chip's most clear-eyed material yet, suggesting that the group was, somewhat soberly, growing up.
Luckily, growing up in Hot Chip's world is a fucking blast. In Our Heads, the group's fifth full-length, is their most playful and colorful record yet, an album-length manifestation of that "sounds of the studio" game that cut straight through the middle of "Shake a Fist". Fittingly, the record that In Our Heads bears most resemblance to in Hot Chip's catalog is the one that bore that single, 2008's Made in the Dark. That album's audacious genre-flaunting was softly tsk-tsk'd at the time of release for being too uneven and grab-baggy, but its bold charms have lent it a fond longevity. In Our Heads is similarly shaggy-- it kicks off with a tuba-heavy anthem and sails off into the sunset in delicious, wispy yacht-rock glory, with nine detailed detours in between-- but the upward progression in quality from One Life Stand is apparent. The songwriting is as strong and intricate than on 2006's classic The Warning, even if it takes a few listens for the finer points to sink in....full text
Contactmusic"Hipster house" may have only really reared its head as a popular music journalistic phrase in 2012, but you only need to look at Hot Chip, the first label they signed to in DFA and the band that some of them teamed up with under the New Build moniker - LCD Soundsystem - to know that the term could just as well as have been applied back in the mid-noughties. Indeed, a few years ago the Chicago house sound had never felt more rejuvenated, a smattering of bands on both sides of the Atlantic taking its spidery-sounding four-to-the-floor beats and marrying them with the disaffected tones of 21st century apathy and tunes of a more pop-based hue.
Whilst outside focus inevitably moved away and onto other sub-genres in the vast chasm of club music - ok, so mainly dubstep - Hot Chip have remained and, by maintaining a sense of not taking themselves too seriously whilst constantly churning out well-worked party albums, they've gradually grown where other peers have fallen away. Now signed to Domino, 'In Our Heads' does little to dissuade that notion; it's a record full of celebratory anthems, from huge opener 'Motion Sickness' - with brass samples that mischievously toe a late 90s big beat line - through to 'Don't Deny Your Heart's' content-in-the-80s pop schmaltz and lead-off single 'Night & Day's' Pacman level-evoking shimmy, Hot Chip's main thought behind their fifth album is apparently simply not to think, but to continue their seemingly endless night out. The slower tracks on the album, the Smooth FM grooves of 'Look Where You We Are' and 'Now There Is Nothing,' merely reinforce the notion that Taylor, Goddard and co. are much better when concerned with pointing their feet towards the direction of the dance floor and not the intimate after party, and combined the whole album listens like a group who'll continue to sound how they want to regardless of the myriad fads and trends that rise and fall around them.
As the fact that "hipster house" seems to be coming into vogue as a blogging term now attests though, those similar to Hot Chip's ilk are coming back into fashion. The 100% Silk label roster featuring the likes of Ital and RVNG's Brooklyn duo Blondes - to name but two - have been turning heads for the best part of the past year, and they're artists whose music has more drive; perhaps they don't pick and choose from quite the array of other components that Hot Chip do (a sustained love of pop music has always kept the five-piece well out of the way of simply being club music, and is again referenced here,) but there's a greater intuition at play that takes in their era and surroundings - be it conscious or sub-conscious. They're acts who, in truth, make albums like 'In Our Heads' feel slightly retro before they've even had time to settle on store shelves - although that's not to say that the wonderfully still-innocent exuberance on here doesn't make for a fine LP. They will, though, will have to adapt eventually if they are to hold the generous position of profile that they currently do; there's a new breed of party-bringers, and at this point in time they seem far more capable of progression than this amiable bunch of good-time boys....full text
Guardian"Look at where we are," sings Alexis Taylor midway through Hot Chip's fifth album. "Remember where we started out." He appears to be singing, as is often the case, about a long-term relationship: almost uniquely in the world of dance music – not a genre famed for its way with a lyric about how nice it is being married – Hot Chip have a winning line in songs about the pleasures of domesticity and monogamy. But he could be singing about Hot Chip themselves. You can currently see them staring out from the shelves of sundry newsagents: magazine cover stars. Hot Chip look as uncomfortable as they always do in photographs; Taylor in particular wears an expression that suggests he finds being on the cover of a magazine only moderately preferable to a body cavity search. But it doesn't feel strange to see them there. In 2012, Hot Chip are, if not pop stars exactly, then certainly a beloved and longstanding part of the pop landscape....full text
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