LP Giveaway details at the end of the review.
One Life Stand
out February 9th
One Life Stand is like that drinking buddy you used to go out with every weekend until he met the girl of his dreams, became inseparable, and now only comes over to drink one or two beers then insists on going home early knowing he doesn’t even have to try anymore. And while you can’t help but be happy for him, you have to admit he was a lot more interesting before falling in love.
Hot Chip scales back in One Life Stand with sparser arrangements for a more cohesive, organic, and mellower sound. And as life often reflects art and art life, frontmen Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard have made it explicit in interviews that this album is a result of their being more “settled and happy.” The lyrical content includes some of the band’s most personal songs yet, with songs about family members (“Brothers”), parents (“Alleycats”), aging (“Slush”), and, as the album title’s campy pun suggests, an overall theme of having found true love.
Although still retaining signature electro elements, this is not a dance record in any conventional sense. But dance-record-in-any-conventional-sense was never Hot Chip’s shtick anyway, and they’ve fully embraced that in One Life Stand. Don’t get me wrong, most tracks on the album are just upbeat enough for a headbob, but that’s as far as Hot Chip seems willing to take this one. Fans looking for an expansion of the dance sound they cultivated in singles like “Over and Over” and “Ready for the Floor” will be disappointed at the minimalistic, more melodramatic tone of the album. Moreover, as a result of their moving away from the synth-heavy sound of their previous albums in favor of instrumental simplicity (expect a lot of sparse piano, guitar, and drums), the album misses the electronically experimental edge Hot Chip achieved in their other albums with songs like “Colours,” “Boy from School,” and “Shake a Fist.”
What the album does have is unity. Considering Made in the Dark’s bipolar mix of upbeat electronica and soulful R&B elements, switching from jagged beats to finger-snapping ballads between or even within each track, One Life Stand’s laid-back pace shows a more developed, mature consistency. However, with too much filler between the good tracks, the uniform quality causes the album to run blandly together. On my first listen, I had hardly realized that more than half the album had played because it at times all sounded like the same song. For this reason, this commitment to a singular sound is both the album’s greatest and worst asset.
And for being the opposite of all the changes Hot Chip has made, “I Feel Better” is the album’s best track. With its loud, bombastic bassline and auto-tuned vocals, the track nearly crosses the threshold into Eurotrance territory but Taylor’s clean backup vocals give it that warm Hot Chip spark. The track is driving, euphoric yet ominous, and the perfect tune for that epic slow-motion dance we all secretly do in our heads. Knowing that Hot Chip is a phenomenal live band, this one will kill live. “I Feel Better” represents the direction that I wish Hot Chip had taken One Life Stand – a more refined sound yet still with an electronic punch without sacrificing any emotional complexity. Other tracks to try out are “One Life Stand,” the title track and too-obvious Hot Chip single, “Take it In,” a sparkly gospel-influenced hymn, and “Slush” – whose introductory backup hum-in-ahs (62x) sound like a wonky vocal exercise but segue into a slow-paced, melodious piano beauty .
If anything, One Life Stand is far from the beginning of the end for Hot Chip. A dramatic shift like this is infinitely preferred to a The Warning or Made in the Dark rehash, or an album of “Ready on the Floor”s. It is an album with a specific sort of mood, and thus takes a particular sort of state of mind to be appreciated (it’s probably no coincidence that the album is being released so close to Valentine’s Day). One Life Stand is the only Hot Chip album to be composed while not on tour, and with a slew of tour dates in European and North American venues and festivals in the coming months, hopefully they’ll be too busy to be lovesick.
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