- More than a decade into their career, Hot Chip are something of a juggernaut. The indie equivalent of a conglomerate like LVMH, they offset their Grammy-nominated pop by keeping a foot in the underground dance world, thanks to their DJ careers and a long-time affiliation with DFA. They got to this point by writing dance floor-savvy hits: "Over And Over," "Boy From School" and most recently "Flutes." On their sixth album, Why Make Sense, the group turn in a few of these moments, but stylistically, it's more of a grab-bag than ever before, occasionally tipping the scales from charming to bombastic.
As if to underline this tightrope act, poppy opener "Huarache Lights" contains a quote from First Choice's "Let No Man Put Asunder." The classic dance reference fits well with the song's clever narrative, loosely about infusing machines with humanity. The second track, "Love Is The Future," tries another historical interlude, dropping in a hip-house verse, and ends up sounding cheesy. The production is usually enough to heal all: the former is full of thick Yamaha CS-80 bass, the latter wrapping up with fluttery string arrangements.
Hot Chip's frontman, Alexis Taylor, sounds particularly forlorn this time out, seemingly navigating the wreckage of a relationship and finding the strength to entertain new love. "When I Cry For You" echoes the title's sentiment over a serpentine synth and piano riff before ramping up to a soul-baring conclusion, where he sings, "If this is for the best, let's put this to the test," over some trance stabs. The band's bouncy pop clashes with the sad lyrics and this paradox keeps things interesting. On the other hand, "Easy To Get" contains the unfortunate gang vocal, "No fear... fear doesn't live here anymore."
So, where's the hit? The winning formula for the English quintet remains mixing dance floor dynamics with natural pop instincts. "Easy To Get" ends with an acid house breakdown that leads nicely into the album's best track, "Need You Now." It starts with a brooding progression and a disembodied diva snatched right out of the Second Summer Of Love. Taylor sounds relaxed and subdued and the arrangement is similarly unfussy. In these moments, Hot Chip feels like the 21st century equivalent of '80s groups like Yaz or The Human League—catchy enough for chart success, smart enough to woo the critics, funky enough for just about everybody.
It makes sense that they would attempt an epic closer. "Why Make Sense" has guitar atmospherics worthy of The Edge, with arena rock pretensions to boot. Though songs like this are fitting in the context of the venues they actually fill, Hot Chip made it this far just being consistent selves, crafting quirky, low-key electronic pop.
01 Huarache Lights
02 Love Is The Future
03 Cry For You
04 Started Right
05 White Wine And Fried Chicken
06 Dark Night
07 Easy To Get
08 Need You Now
09 So Much Further To Go
10 Why Make Sense?