I don’t know where you live, but in Minneapolis it’s Memorial Day weekend and it’s raining. It isn’t a downpour, nor is it particularly cold, but what it is is just unpleasant enough to rule out leaving the comfort of a home, save to huddle under a bus shelter to get to a something-percent-off sale. I have family and friends who were in the military, but none were killed in action, so the real gravity of this weekend is lost on me. I get a shortened work week and 30% off at REI. And rain.
Instead of going out hiking and finding a place to hang my hammock, or having my friends over for a BBQ, I’m catching up on reading bookmarked pages and listening to a backlog of new releases. As much as I’d like to offer a candid, tho ironic review of Jamie Foxx’s “Hollywood: A Story of a Dozen Roses,” that’s already been done, and well, I might add. No, today we’ll be looking at Hot Chip‘s sixth studio album, “Why Make Sense?”
In writing and recording the new album, the band made a conscious effort to strip down the songwriting process, and to scale back production in an attempt to offer a more direct connection. Hot Chip are no strangers to studio production, nor are they bad at any particular aspect of it. However, on some of their previous releases, it is easy to hear their penchant for adding effects, filters, dropping or raising certain parts. These techniques can certainly assist in creating an overall sound, but they also tend to muddle the song itself, in much the way that rain can muddle a Memorial Day weekend.
The entire album is incredibly dance-able, albeit in drastically different ways from one portion to the next. The first song, and lead single, “Huarache Lights,” is a more traditional electronic dance track, where the next couple songs navigate territory familiar to fans of Hot Chip, the morose falsetto of Alexis Taylor, the low thrum of Joel Goddard, alongside a irregular rhythms and clever synth melodies.
A peculiar standout of the album is no surprise given it’s name: “White Wine and Fried Chicken.” I’m ninety percent sure this is a love song, about getting so wrapped up in another person that you let everything else in life go for a time, where you’re just absorbed in their company. I’m not sure if the odd culinary pairing is a commentary on the relationship the song was written about, or that in that lovey-dovey state, that you’re perfectly content with anything life throws at you, so why would something odd like Chardonnay and KFC bother you?
The album’s crown jewel, at least for me, has to be the perfectly nostalgic “Need You Now,” which is like three beautiful songs funneled down into a glorious four minutes, forty-six seconds. I was lured into what turned out to be a fairly shallow Internet rabbit-hole by the vocal sample, which turned out to be the similarly titled “I Need You Now” by Sinnamon, circa 1993. I recognized it as a Moby sample, and my aforementioned sleuthing found Moby sampled it for “Drug Fits the Face.” The gentlemen of Hot Chip cut and pasted the sample expertly fitted into the aforementioned mold of the morose, yet upbeat dance track they’ve perfected over the past fifteen years.
A rainy day is a morose day, and making the best of a rainy day is making the best of a bad situation in the same way that Hot Chip makes a dance party out of melancholy. This Sunday, do what you can to make a dance party out of whatever’s bringing you down.