After LCD Soundsystem called it quits last year, a void was left in the mainstream/indie electro-pop scene. Hot Chip, now on their fifth LP, are confident they are the band to mind the gap. LCD could entrance an audience into uncontrollable dance unlike any other modern band and while Hot Chip doesn’t possess the same exuberance, their new album In Our Heads spews electrified pop that aims to put dance floors into a euphoric haze.
Hot Chip’s first album Coming On Strong came out in 2004 and since then, they have changed songwriting tendencies slightly with every album while maintaining their colorful qualities and perfecting their sound. On 2008’s Made in the Dark they based most of their songs as love ballads while 2010’s One Life Stand took a more somber tone and strayed into introspective thoughts. They have always used high-powered synth and magnetic percussion accompanied by singer Alexis Taylor’s smooth tenor vocals. With each album they have honed this sound and with In Our Heads, it sounds like they are more than comfortable being themselves and are having a good time being Hot Chip.
Their confidence translates into an excited playfulness; In Our Heads is all about the party. Opening track “Motion Sickness” breaks in with a thumping bass, pounding your heart while quietly escalating into a full on dance-motion. The feel-good opener is followed by another motion-mover “How Do You Do?” which lets the total carefree electro-synth run wild. “Don’t Deny Your Heart” is as ’80s as any band could get as it takes the retro aspect with full force. One of the main things that holds the album together is Taylor’s vocals. He is especially sensual as his vocals float with every track, synergizing with the beat and oozing sexiness. This is clear on lead single “Night & Day” as he pounds his vocals along with the upright beat, making the song an escalating experience. He even pulls off a seductive coon on slower number “Look at Where We Are.”
However, In Our Heads does have some hefty faults that keep it from being a must-listen. The album drags pretty heavily from the middle all the way to the end. There isn’t anything substantial enough to keep it interesting. The songwriting doesn’t give a lyrical listener anything to attach to, and they make the same mistake as some other electro-pop artists by having their songs go too long. Most of the tracks hover around the six-minute mark which is too long when there isn’t anything substantial to make the track that length. If Hot Chip originated a forceful energy then their dance numbers might be enough to hold the album together, but they don’t, and In Our Heads becomes an album that is hard to get through. Seven-minute “Flutes” attempts at a sly R&B tone but doesn’t deliver anything worthwhile and follow-up track “Now There Is Nothing” teeters on the edge of memorable moments but ultimately stays in limbo. Towards the end, tracks like “Ends of the Earth” have strong beats and a danceable quality but we have already heard better songs earlier on the album.
There is enough on In Our Heads to satisfy someone who is already a fan of Hot Chip or electro-pop but there isn’t enough to bring in a casual fan. Hot Chip may have become a little too confident in their style because the whole second half of the album seems to be on autopilot.