I recently got involved writing reviews for a music magazine. Here is my review of Hot Chip’s Made in the Dark.
In the past, Hot Chip has impressed listeners with their cross-genre dance-punk/electro-pop/whatever-the-hell-it-is-they-do sound that drew in elements of funk, soul, and even hip-hop sampling techniques. Not that they’ve thrown this to the wind, but on their newest effort, Made in the Dark, they have certainly added in a much more prominent rock influence. In fact, they have still managed to carry over all the elements of their previous releases, and yet they’ve given the record a new vibe that, aside from a few tracks, works incredibly well.
The album opens strongly with Out At the Pictures. This track has a very slow build-up with some weird synthesized sounds that increase tempo up and increase tempo and eventually become backing to a phat guitar sound and some sporadic drums. Then this all breaks down and takes on a new tempo, drum, and melody, and here come the lyrics. This is a perfect mirror of how the album flows: unexpected, both in progression and in the combination of sounds, but somehow it all works wonderfully, eventually it all comes together and finally it resolves.
Next up is Shake a Fist, a highly danceable track that incorporates Afrikan drums, a haunting vocal melody, and a punchy synth, all marvelously. And when it breaks down into the hook, it is phenomenal. This breaks down into a brief spoken interlude, before breaking down once again into a bizarre (but in a good way) medley of sounds. This leads into the first single off the album, Ready for the Floor. This is by far one of the catchiest beats of the album. This is definitely the song to play at your next crazy dance party.
The rock edge really shines through on the next track, Bendable Poseable. A simple melody centered on a steady synth, robotic monotone voice: “bendable poseable,” and a recurring guitar riff. The breakdown at the end of this track is really a nice touch. And right after such a heavy hitting track, the mood gets very mellow. The contrast is somewhat jarring, and unexpected. This is definitely a very different kind of moment from the group.
This quieter sound continues on through the deceptively mellow Touch too Much, and on into the titular track Made in the Dark. Touch too Much plays a good balance between up-tempo and down-tempo contrasting the quick drum hits with the mellow lyrics. Made in the Dark (the song) is a complete departure from anything the group has ever done before. It is very slow, sad, mellow, and is centered around a melody played on an actual piano. This is where I begin to get mixed feelings. The song is not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it just doesn’t feel like Hot Chip to me.
The next few tracks pick up where Bendable Poseable left off in terms of energy. One Pure Thought comes through with a nice guitar intro, and then deviates into something completely different, electronic drums and synths that carry us through to the end, but not without the guitar coming back to lend a hand. Next is Hold On, another nice guitar-laced dancey track that lends itself well to head nodding. And of course, what would this track be without the fantastic conga drum breakdown towards the end. The next track, Wrestlers, is one of the best lyrical moments of the album. “It’s me versus you and love, we’ll tag-team double up./Hit you in the sweet spot and make you wish you’d duffed up.”
Next up is Don’t Dance. What’s remarkable about this track is that it makes you want to dance, while maintaining such an awkward time-structure and tempo that it is almost impossible to actually dance to. Weird. The final two tracks on this album, to me are a bit of a let-down. Again, they are not bad, but they have such little energy and are so unlike Hot Chip, that they don’t really fit well with the album. But as stand-alone tracks they are good. Overall, a very good showing, that only suffers from a few slightly dull moments (although I expect these to grow on me) in an album one would expect to be a bit more heavy hitting.
And here is the advantage of the internet coming into play:
–the judge (MySpace me)