So why the massive wait? And what on earth have they been doing?! Well, it turns out the answer is they’ve been very busy indeed.
Not only have Hot Chip toured extensively across the US, South America, Mexico, Japan, Australia and Europe during their ‘absence’, but there has also been a number of splinter projects; frontman Alexis Taylor formed the jazz-soul improv About Group, Joe Goddard toured the world as one half of eclectic dance duo The 2 Bears, Al Doyle and Felix Martin founded the electro-pop of New Build and Doyle was also snapped up by LCD Soundsystem for their farewell tour.
Frankly it’s no wonder there has been a rather protracted pause before the release of fifth album ‘In Our Heads’. In fact it’s incredible they found the time or inclination.
Clearly the internal workings of Hot Chip have a magnetic pull to its core; and time spent touring and recording on break-away ventures has added fuel to their collective musical furnace. Whilst Hot Chip fans hoping for another slice of infectious hooks, bubbling synths, pulsing beats and inspired sampling will not be disappointed, ‘In Our Heads’ does not conform to a repeat-the-last-album formula. It’s more imaginative, more mature and has a real sense of elation about it.
Goddard recently revealed the group has taken inspiration from 80s 12” extended mixes for ‘In Our Heads’, and this is readily apparent. Only one track (‘Look At Where We Are’) clocks in under the four minute mark, and yet the album as a whole never tires or outstays its welcome.
‘Motion Sickness’ is the perfect launching pad; a smouldering track that builds to an effervescent flame of sweeping synth samples with an abundance of alluring hooks. The sheer wealth of themes is remarkable. Each new layer slowly absorbed by the rest until the image is complete like a Jackson Pollock composition.
‘How Do You Do’ and ‘Don’t Deny Your Heart’ follow seamlessly, and although the latter song bears scars of both 70s/80s disco it still works somehow. With its bongos, castanets and vocal sample it really shouldn’t, but the relentless pace and production combined with some well timed funk guitar make this a triumph. And it’s tempered perfectly by ‘Look At Where We Are’; a beautiful down-tempo R&B influenced ballad that has all the hallmarks of James Blake including a rather soulful and delicate vocal.
Obviously ‘Night and Day’ needs no introduction. Instant Hot Chip – just add water. Dirty beats. Dirty synths. Dirty lyrics (mostly implied, of course). Oh, and utterly contagious; it’s no wonder this was the first single. While it is not the strongest track on the album it has all the ingredients of timeless Hot Chip and the ideal ‘bait’. Meanwhile ‘Flutes’ is a contender for follow-up single with its fusion of Chicago House and electropop. It’s simultaneously experimental and club-friendly.
In fact it’s this fine balancing act of interspersing progressive with elements of subtle restraint that truly makes this album. Moments of chilled sobriety such as ‘Now There Is Nothing’ are succeeded by the intensity of tracks such as ‘Ends of the Earth’ – dark, sinister tiers of ominous synth loops countering the former song’s irregular time shift blend of banjo and string loops.
‘In Our Heads’ is Hot Chip matured. Pushing boundaries with an astute subtlety; mining the art of deception to perfection. Progressive and revolutionary, yet understated. Unlike many of their contemporaries this never feels forced. Now that’s clever. And exceptionally modest too.
This album will undoubtedly be a soundtrack to 2012 – a mainstay of festivals, dancefloors and future TV events.
This year’s hot tip? Hot Chip. Worth the wait? Absolutely.