Monday, 11 June 2012

Hot Chip - In Our Heads added to 2012 Recommended Albums

Hot Chip have never won the Mercury Music Prize (they were nominated in 2006 for The Warning but lost out to Arctic Monkeys), which in hindsight seems a little harsh. The London five-piece have released if not a stellar at least a curiously great album every two years for the last decade, and are responsible for a healthy number of classic singles including "Ready for the Floor" and "Over and Over". As a result Hot Chip have rightfully earned a reputation for being one of the most dependable bands our fair isle has produced in recent memory. Their latest, In Our Heads, only cements that reputation further, and hopefully brings that award closer to their grasp than ever.

For fans of the band's previous album One Life Stand, this new record should feel both comfortable and welcome. Like many groups at this stage of their career, Hot Chip are experts of refinement rather than the unsteady experimentalists they were once considered by many to be. "Night and Day", the lead single may feel a tad crude and hollow (especially compared to the magnificent sheen of "Flutes", the first track to be previewed off the album), but is still as catchy as any other Hot Chip single (i.e. very), and is bound to age just as well as any of the others. Besides it's also probably the weakest show here, and it's still great. In Our Heads boasts two early praise-worthy pop tracks in particular that dispel any anxieties; both were debuted on Later... With Jools Holland a few weeks prior to the release date. "How Do You Do?" and "Don't Deny Your Heart" spring off opener "Motion Sickness" with gusto, thrusting vocal hooks in layers above the band's retro-obsessed melodies.

The principal songwriting duo of Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard are working together better than ever; their influences showing more strongly and distinct, and really giving the album character. Be it Taylor's love of R&B, funk and disco that have always shown through his angelic vocal style and melodies, or Goddard's adept knowledge of Detroit and Chicago house that he recently explored in the 2 Bears, In Our Heads is just as diverse and exciting as previous albums, but time invested in seperate projects appears to have helped the blending of thse influences together for this record tremendously. Hot Chip can no longer be written of as kitchy imitators or bastardizers of these genres (unfair accusations as they may be), which brings a wonderful fresh air to the record.

The best In Our Heads has to offer is reserved for the latter half of the album. The aforementioned "Flutes" begins a final five-song run that sound as assured as Hot Chip have ever made. Alexis Taylor leads "Ends Of The Earth" higher and higher as his voice lifts one of many euphoric choruses off the dancefloor and into the stratosphere. The track that follows, "Let Me Be Him" strikes a contrast with a quieter rare vocal lead by Joe Goddard, yet builds over seven minutes whilst still feeling as exhilerating as anything here right from the beginning. It's another clear favourite from many.

In Our Heads carries one theme and feeling throughout, the feeling of summer, and more than any other record this year carries off the heady excitement right from first listen. Caution is advised however to those who prefer their Hot Chip records quirkier or funnier; there has been a deliberate and expected shift away from the "kitchen sink" pop wizardry of earlier albums, so much so that even One Life Stand looks a little too silly. Instead In Our Heads shows Hot Chip at their most focused, proving that they can make an album entirely out of the little moments of brilliance they've brought to their output so far.

In Our Heads is out now on Domino Records, and is still strreaming at the Guardian.

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