Artist: Hot Chip
Album: In Our Heads
It is one of the more inexplicable features of humanity that as summer arrives and the globe heats up, we begin to pursue athletic activities designed primarily to make us hot and sweaty. Some of them are understandable – swimming is hard to do when what you’re swimming in is frozen over – but dancing in the summer seems masochistic. Yet In Our Heads by Hot Chip may very well inspire the unsuspecting listener to engage in precisely that dangerous, sweat-inducing activity. Heart rates beware, there’s a new album in town prepared to make you buzz.
The sound of Hot Chip’s latest endeavor is not completely unexpected; synthesizers, drums, and a variety of electronic miscellany conspire to create a faintly nostalgic, 80s electric dance pop-influenced sound. There is even the whiff of the video game among a few of the tracks (“Motion Sickness,” “Night and Day”), and music that occasionally feels like it could double as the theme song for a public access television show three decades back (“Don’t Deny Your Heart”). The choral series of “ohs” in “Let Me Be Him” are strongly reminiscent of pop rock vocal diversions from the 80s – in fact with only a few glancing moments of 70s disco percussion and choruses, and some 60s rock folk blushes (particularly in “Now There Is Nothing”), the album comes across as a loving look backwards that, while not entirely immersive in the era, certainly lingers along the doorway there.
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Dance music is not expected to create any deeply meaningful connection; disco is generally not known for being the thoughtful repository for the human condition. However there’s an interesting sense of spirituality lurking about the album – albeit in a (thankfully) light-handed way. “How Do You Do?” is about rebirth – possibly both romantic and spiritual – as it claims that “a church is not for praying, it’s for celebrating the light that bleeds through the pain.” In a way movement, and dance, is a direct way of celebrating life, and the very rhythms of this album that inspire our physical reaction to it feel like a nod to what moves us in every sense. Later on “These Chains” describes not the melancholic treachery of binding love, but how liberating love can be when “these chains you bound around my heart complete me” – an unusual take on a topic generally fraught with singers bemoaning their loss of sexual freedom. Even the songs dealing with a bad love story aren’t terribly dark or deep. “Flutes” feels like it was written as a warm up for an aerobics class, and the bittersweet lyrics are interspersed with orders to “work” various body parts; motion as catharsis for the soul.
While the album isn’t perfect – instead of rhythms that get under the skin, these are rhythms the body follows, sometimes past the point of being fully engaged – but it’s worth breaking a sweat over, even under the summer sun.