Hot Chip haven’t exactly been taking it easy in the two years between their fourth album, 2010’s One Life Stand, and their new record. Alexis Taylor released an album with About Group and scored a film, while Joe Goddard issued his solo album Harvest Festival and recorded The 2 Bears’ debut album, Be Strong, with Raf Rundell. Then there was Al Doyle and Felix Martin’s side project New Build, which released the well-received Yesterday Was Lived And Lost.
It’s a wonder they found the time for a new Hot Chip LP at all, but find time they did and the resulting sessions produced their fifth album – and first for Domino – entitled In Our Heads. However, following the beautiful and accomplished One Life Stand, the quintet’s new effort has a lot to live up to. A career-defining record has so far eluded the electro-pop outfit. While they have undoubtedly had some brilliant singles and several good albums, they have yet to make the one record that could be considered a classic. The signs for the new album were not good, either.
Night And Day, the album’s first proper single, suggested that the band were distancing themselves from the beautiful, indulgent melodies of their previous effort with clunky, abrasive synths and sloppy lyrics. Fortunately, it was not a sign of what was to come. Instead, In Our Heads is Hot Chip’s strongest record to date. It kicks off with the colourful and vibrant Motion Sickness, with stabbing synths on the verse swelling towards an immersive and danceable chorus, as Taylor sings: “Remember when people thought the world was round?”
How Do You Do? continues the strong opening to the album, with its funky groove, throbbing beat and group vocals demonstrating Hot Chip’s continuing knack of producing an infectious hook. Then there’s the centerpiece, the stunning seven-minute Flutes. The song is an example of the London quintet keeping things simple, with an intermittent vocal sample leading into a repetitive sprawling synth and a ticking beat, as Taylor sings: “All this talk is getting me down/ noting is getting through to my brain.” It may be long, but it is worth every minute.
Night And Day remains the odd one out on the album, with Hot Chip clearly still channeling the emotive and sweeping melodies that worked so well on One Life Stand. That is not to say that the band haven’t progressed. How Don’t Deny Your Heart lost out to Night And Day as the first single is a mystery. It’s a joyous splicing of ’80s synths and a thrilling guitar riff, which builds towards a huge, unashamedly cheesy chorus.
Meanwhile, Look At Where We Are is heartbreakingly gorgeous, showing a side of Hot Chip that has never really been seen before. Its swirling atmospherics and delicate acoustic guitar are dazzling, with the lyrics on the chorus almost boyband-esque – in the best possible way. Now There Is Nothing is a wistful mid-tempo track, while closer Always Been Your Love is an enticing and measured slow-burner, which crawls along over sparse piano keys and a flickering beat.
In Our Heads is a surprising record, but only because it sounds nothing like Night And Day suggested it would. Instead, it is the best album start-to-finish from Hot Chip, one that continues to show their deft range – from infectious disco hits to soulful ballads. It’s an impressive return from the quirky five-piece, topping their nearly brilliant fourth album in both scale and ambition.