Hot Chip has always had a sharp tunefulness to them, so much in fact that despite the busy sound (some would argue clutter) on their last album, Made in the Dark, it still yielded such catchy melodies and fun rhythms. This time around, the group embraces a tighter and more unified sound, though not so much to handicap the adventurous quality to the songs. While their latest, One Life Stand, is a bit more simplified, it's just enough to let the harmonies breathe, and it truly pays off. "It's the most warm and soulful sounding record we've made," vocalist Alexis Taylor has said of his band's fourth release, and repeated listening makes it more and more difficult to disagree.
One Life Stand's melodies are not just more direct this time around, but they're perhaps the most attractive Hot Chips has produced yet. The gorgeous opener Thieves in the Night quickly demonstrates just how immediate they are; in fact, most of the first half of the album feels very trance influenced, with the simple beats being layered over with lovely synths. The lead single title track's hooks are expertly stacked atop each other, with clever transitions into the stand-alone chorus. I Feel Better, another early highlight, joins the ranks of the few songs able to make autotune sound charming, thanks mostly to its catchy vocal pattern and how well it plays against the gentle retro-dance backdrop. The later We Have Love is another addicting dance cut, coming across as a blend of glitch and worldbeat, with a stomping palpitation contrasted with smooth melodies and vocals.
Lyrically, One Life Stand continues the more romantic tone of its predecessor, and sees Taylor and Joe Goddard continue to grow as a writer. A lot of obscurity has been shed, and Taylor sings perhaps his most tender lines. The aforementioned I Feel Better, for example, is about how in the midst of the negative state of the world, one can always find solace in the arms of their lover. Alley Cats, the earliest song debuted, seems to simultaneously cherish living relationships while pining for lost ones. At some points it does threaten to get a bit overly maudlin, mostly in the disc's middle with the philia-love obsessed Brothers and Slush, whose background vocal humana humana scales are startlingly effective, but it never goes over the top.
Keep Quiet and Take It In close out One Life Stand on a somber note, with the latter exhibiting a bit of Made in the Dark's heavy texture and opposing it to a very delicate chorus. Lyrically, it's a very sweet song, and the sentiment is just so convincingly expressed. After all, it's not terribly common to hear a line like "My heart has flown to you just like a dove... please take my heart and keep it close to you" with a pleasantly mellow musical backing and simply think, "what a crock of shit."
Okay, well maybe. But those kinds of people probably wouldn't care much for this album anyway.
On their latest opus, Hot Chip continue to develop and have, at least in this reviewer's opinion, put together their finest set of songs yet. Not only is the warm emotion most welcome, but all the elements really come together here. The abundance of creative ideas shown with their last album is still in tact, but One Life Stand shows that they've developed the focus to channel them.