Imagine if Hot Chip’s lead vocalist Alexis Taylor tried to make it big in the 1980s. His adorably awkward and geeky guise would surely be mistaken for the average ’80s nerd. Instead of experiencing mild pop fame, he’d likely be stuffed into the nearest locker. Luckily for Hot Chip, le geek c’est chic in today’s burgeoning hipster counterculture. Thrift-store threads, pop-bottle specks and funky fresh electro beats are all the rage — and Hot Chip is cashin’ in.
One Life Stand
But Hot Chip has always had it figured out. While practically every other electro-pop band spent the aughts reinventing its image in order to coincide with what’s popular with the kids, Hot Chip — with its endearingly wonky laptop-synthed sound — remained genuine, rejecting the mainstream ploys advocated by record labels like EMI.
The band’s latest album, One Life Stand, marks the continuation of a lengthy and successful career in making music of the throwback-y, robotic variety. Still, it’s not accurate to place Hot Chip in such a defined genre. Influentially, Hot Chip is all over the place, taking cues from the punky, art-deco vibes of The Talking Heads and the psychedelic poppy synths of Prince. There are even shades of breezy ’60s sounds à la The Beach Boys embedded in their latest tracks.
While Hot Chip’s albums can often feel like stellar techno treats that take the main stage while the remaining tracks meld into the background, One Life Stand is a cohesive and innovative record — and this feeling isn’t just a coincidence. Though the band usually writes its dreamy electro slices in capricious blips, One Life Stand was “made with time,” according to Alexis Taylor in an interview with the BBC. In assembling the record, Hot Chip decided to forgo conducting their creative process in vocalist and synth master Joe Goddard’s bedroom and shifted its computerized gears toward the recording studio, complete with legitimate drum kits and synthesizers.
There’s still an experimental element permeating the record, though the presence of synths is much more subtle. Through a combination of flugelhorn, steel pans, guitars and drum machines, Hot Chip uses an sampling of assorted instruments in order to produce a uniquely crafted record.
Although One Life Stand won’t get listeners “Ready for the Floor” quite like 2008’s Made in the Dark, Hot Chip hasn’t lost its undeniably alluring pop-hook charm. Both the title track and single “Take It In” are some of the sweetest disco-tonic treats of Hot Chip’s career. Through a wave of throbbing keys, laser beams and tropical xylophones, “One Life Stand” takes Hot Chip to new tsunami heights.
But Hot Chip doesn’t rely on these tongue-in-cheek techno tracks as the main attraction. With One Life Stand, Hot Chip enlists a warmer, more soulful demeanor. On “Brothers,” “Slush” and “Alley Cats,” Hot Chip displays quirky takes on the prototypical pop ballad. While not poorly composed, their hefty emotional tone and cooing vocals will leave many fans nostalgic for the distinctly British and tectonic vibe that made them fall in love with Hot Chip in the first place.
“Slush” highlights the band’s decision to take the slow-jam route. In the track’s hook, Taylor sings: “Now that we’re older there’s more we must do.” But that doesn’t mean Hot Chip needs to forgo peppy beats for sappy, bro-fest love ballads like the cringe-worthy “Brothers.”
Thankfully, Hot Chip’s geeky electro-pop persona comes full circle on final track “Take It In.” Behind a futuristic house-party hook is uttered, “Take my heart and keep it close to you / Take it in, take it in.” With One Life Stand, Hot Chip implies that their album is something to cherish, something that will withstand the test of time. And it goes down smooth.