Band of the Day

2012.07.13

Hot Chip

The U.K.'s brainiest dance group injects some joyful house into their quirky electro-pop sound
One day you might realize, that you might need to open your eyes.
lyrics from Flutes

Hot Chip is an electro-dance band from London made up of Alexis Taylor, Joe Goddard, Al Doyle, Owen Clarke, and Felix Martin. The band came together in 2000, though its two most prominent members Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard, who also go by the titles Sophocles and Ulysses, have known each other since they were children. Hot Chip released their first album, Coming On Strong, on the label Moshi Moshi in 2004. The album which garnered favorable reviews was a tribute to American R&B and hip hop, also drawing influence from Taylor’s early fixation with Prince. Hot Chip have since released four more studio albums, moving to the label Domino Records after EMI was sold off. Their steady growth as a band as brought them accolades in the form of a Grammy Award nomination and recognition as one of the UK’s top electro outfits. Their most recent album, In Our Heads was released in 2012.

Hot Chip may never be able to escape the image of geeky knob-twiddling nice guys hoisted onto them around the time their debut came out in 2005, but then again they don't seem to be trying very hard to. Now five albums into their careers, the U.K. quintet seems to have perfected the art of sweetly earnest electro-pop. Few groups over the last decade's synth pop revival have matched Hot Chip's club ready pop masterpieces, and none have done so with Hot Chip's signature warmhearted positivity. Between 2010's One Life Stand and the just released In Our Hands, Hot Chip members have been keeping busy with side projects. Al Doyle and Felix Martin released an album under the moniker New Build while Joe Goddard is one half of 2 Bears. Both buoyant house projects, much of that classic house sound has made its way onto In Our Hands (Hot Chip are nothing if not music nerds with a deep understanding of the history of dance music). But being a Hot Chip album, all that house is sandwiched between quirky electro funk and R&B jams. It's not their best album, I'd give that honor to 2006's The Warning, but it might be their most effortlessly enjoyable, as Hot Chip quits over-thinking and embraces elemental house. Hot Chip has long been associated with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem's label DFA, and on this album Hot Chip is starting to sound like the politely amiable British foil to LCD Soundsystem. Like those American dance-rock legends, the drums feel fluid and dynamic, guitars provide funky accents, and the synths have a succulent disco bounce to them, hypnotically repetitive, ready and able to fill dance floors. “Flutes” combines that DFA-esque aesthetic with Alexis Taylor's beautifully earnest vocals, sounding like classic Hot Chip moments “Boy From School” and “Colours,” but pumped with house energy. Lead single “Night And Day” is another energetic cut, deliriously off-kilter thanks to eccentric synth squiggles, kooky bass and plenty of cowbell. “Look At Where We Are” explores sexy stripped down slow jams as Taylor lets his heart-baring falsetto float over sensually picked electric guitar and deeply grooving R&B drums. Ultimately, In Our Heads is a fun and satisfying listen that emphasizes their strengths as euphoric dance producers, even if it lacks some of the eccentricity that fans have come to love about Hot Chip.