Perhaps Alexis Taylor, Joe Goddard and the rest of Hot Chip have had a recent run-in with cupid, because it seems that the British electro-pop group has written a love album. Yes, that Hot Chip, who sparked its early success with ironic and whimsical hits like “Over And Over” and “Ready For The Floor,” has cut out a few of the gimmicks to create In Our Heads, a more mature album that, while just as dance-y as past work, will add a little lovin’ to the dance floor. Not to say that it is your typical love album; there are no ballads, and it’s not really slow-dance friendly. But the writing evokes the many different characteristics of that flame: affection, adoration, infatuation and even some of the shittier ones located on the other end of the spectrum. This could easily be the soundtrack to your summer romance, especially if you’d prefer to spend it in dancing shoes instead of flip-flops.
Kicking off the album, “Motion Sickness” builds off of airy synth rhythms and flat, pulsing horns, and Taylor immediately introduces a relationship that the co-vocalists will trace throughout the album. “Remember when people thought the world was round,” he reminds the subject of his affection. “Remember when we both first felt the world is sound?” Perhaps the title of the song is a metaphor for the up-and-down, back-and-forth excitement of a new relationship. The songs begin to build emotionally with the funky, disco-inspired “How Do You Do,” which features a swirling of Taylor’s and Goddard’s vocals pondering, as each puts it, “How do you do it? You make me wanna live again.” By the third track, the band is in the full swing of romance with “Don’t Deny Your Heart,” channeling ’80s Madonna, sounding like a lighthearted Depeche Mode. And then, almost predictably, on “Look At Where We Are” the music slows, and it seems as if Taylor is about to drop that most important four-lettered word: “Won’t you come down to my arms? There’s something I’m ready to say.”
Goddard takes the lead for the first time on “These Chains” matching his warm, milky voice to the smooth trance melody and simple hi-hat and snare rhythms. This song, along with the spacey, bassline-heavy “Night And Day,” contemplates being enslaved by this significant others love. Goddard croons, “These chains you’ve bound around my heart…I will not be free,” and Taylor describes his mind as a victim to lust, both “night and day.” At this point on the album, both singers have given up hope on any chance of escape, and it’s impossible to tell if that is a positive or negative thing. The two songs resonate with indifferent feelings about love, creating a point of limbo for the album.
Hot Chip demonstrates its true craftsmanship on the seven-minute-long single “Flutes.” With longer song lengths than the band has ever experimented with before (the shortest song on the record is just a second short of four minutes, with the longest being 7:41), Hot Chip is really able to develop the songs from front to back. The result is an unforced, full-circle feel to the tracks, with each one telling its own story. “Flutes” starts with a choppy, youthful voice sample before adding a steady and foreboding bassline. What is the album’s best musical composition also acts as the turning point thematically in keeping with the love concept; the love is fading, and something doesn’t feel right. Taylor, with his fluttering, soft chops, worriedly explains, “I know it’s nothing more than flutes, but something in my heart is loose.” This is the breakup.
As the album descends into the depths of heartbreak with the remaining four songs, keeping consistent with the narrative of love, the quality of the songs drops. The tail-end lacks the catchiness of the front of the album, leaving the tracks less memorable and less play-worthy. It seems that the tones of the songs are supposed to reflect the theme of love lost because they come off as dreary and dragging. “Let Me Be Him” gives a little redemption with its strong musical composition and progression front to back. But overall, this section just comes off as dull, something uncharacteristic of Hot Chip songs.
The Hot Chip full of fun and games hasn’t left us; it’s just grown up a bit. And just like anybody growing up, love has become a central theme for the band. But that doesn’t mean Hot Chip has to throw away the bumping synth textures and feel-good rhythms. Hot Chip has written an album that touches the many feelings on the spectrum of love, while staying true to the humorous and entertaining musical idiosyncrasies that the band has enlisted for the better part of a decade. After all, who said love couldn’t be fun—at least for a little while.