We often spend far too much time searching for the next best thing rather than enjoying and acknowledging what we already have. There is a certain allure, or even sexiness, to the unknown, whether it be music or the opposite sex. It’s not so much the inability to enjoy what we already know, but rather the thought that what we don’t know could be better. If you’re one of these people who constantly find themselves in predicaments like this, you probably fear normalcy and commitment. The catch 22 of all this is of course, if you can’t ever be happy with the normal, you are never going to have anything sustainable. The search is what you crave, not so much the result. And in the end, you could very well end up never finding anything.
London’s Hot Chip released their fifth studio album In Our Heads last week. The first follow up to the critically acclaimed One Life Stand in 2010, the album represents a culmination of sorts for the band. No longer the younger, brash group from the early 2000’s whose songs were as much about quirkiness as they were dance, life has happened to the group and that change is reflected in their music. They have wives, kids, houses…in short they’ve done what we all do, age. Just looking at the song titles when compared to their major label debut Coming On Strong in 2004. On that album you have songs entitled “The Beach Party”, “Playboy”, and “Crap Kraft Dinner”. Now, you are songs like “Don’t Deny Your Heart”, “Always Been Your Love”, and “Ends of the Earth”. Sense a bit more seriousness in their craft?
That’s not to say this album doesn’t deliver what Hot Chip wants to. In the end, this is still “get those feet moving” dance music that you’d expect at your favorite club on a Saturday night. “How Do You Do” and “Don’t Deny Your Heart” are perhaps the most perfect examples of this on the album. They are your classic Hot Chip material: a fast driving electro beat that pushes the song and catchy hooks. But this album features the band continuing to dive into a slower, more methodical, style. “Look at Where We Are” is a beautiful 90’s R&B slow jam that is last dance prom music for hipsters. In a similar style, “Flutes” features seven minutes of build and tempo before getting to the ultimate point that “One day you might realize, that you might need to open your eyes.”
But perhaps the best song on In Our Heads that truly symbolizes the sound of this album is the lengthy “Let Me Be Him” which features the “moment” on this album where at the 4:30 mark Alexis Taylor belts out amongst a church like chant, “Let me be him. My soul, my love, is running away with me, and I won’t leave it all to you.” The album comes to a close with the soothing “Always Been Your Love” which resembles a church congregation chant of unity and togetherness. And perhaps that what a band like Hot Chip wanted to accomplish with their voice and thousands of fans…a feeling and knowledge that we’re all in this together. And that’s precisely why you can’t continue to chase the unknown, because when all is said and done, you’ll be the only one left standing their alone.
Written by Greg Dahman
Is it just me, or does the mood of an song and the time of its release matter incredibly to whether it takes or not? Take for instance an album like Atlas Sound’s recent Parallax. If Brandon Cox releases that album now, well quite frankly, I don’t think I could listen to it more than once. It’s 80 degrees, sunny, and humid here in Cincinnati. Listening to a dark, bleak album like that as I sweat in my apartment doesn’t really seem ideal. But in late fall, early winter? Sure, and that’s probably why I like it so much. Another great example is Dirty Gold’s “California Sunrise” from this past year. It’s a great song, and made for a sunny day, but I don’t think I listened to it after Labor Day. The piece didn’t fit the puzzle that is my life anymore after that.
I say this all because of a fab pop song that has recently caught my ear by London five-piece Bear Driver. “Enemy” is the lead single off the group’s debut self-titled debut album due out June 11th. Full of a whistling chorus and some catchy hooks, there is no doubt about this song’s genre. Labeling their sound as “sunshine slacker pop”, I’m not exactly sure how this California vibe has made it’s way to the English Channel, but it surely fits the bill of the moment. While the rest of their catalog screams more along the lines of early Broken Social Scene/Built to Spill, who doesn’t love a catchy pop song? Something has to be the encore right?
Written by Greg Dahman
Gorgeous is a word I try not to toss off lightly, but I think it’s an appropriate term for Lost Left’s debut LP Levollinen. The release is one that achieves an astonishing richness for a trio. Their sound is vaporous, as if born within the London fog from which the band calls home.
The tracks flow into one another, without any real distinction from one to the next. Rather than provide the listener with specific stopping points, we’re supposed relax in the lulls and snap to attention when the band asserts itself. That’s not to say the songs don’t translate individually, they do. But the album works best when digested as a complete thought.
The vocals are as much a fourth instrument as a source of any concrete narrative. Lead singer Ben Pritchard tends to work more as an abstract painter than a storyteller, offering the listener motifs in exchange for plot.
The bass line hums, hopping beneath driving drums and splashing cymbals, combining to serve as the engine of the opening track “Thank You For The Lung,” a bold statement piece to kick off the album. This is serious music for serious listeners.
They’ll smother you and they’ll cover you up / They’ll take you apart and they’ll earn their gold / From your body parts / As if, as if, as if… / You needed them
The second track, “Caves,” would have been an apt title for the entire release. The mood here, as elsewhere on the album, is cavernous, with reverb heavy vocals bouncing off the walls in all directions. This song sounds as if it was written in a cistern. The track is similar to the more expansive side of Fleet Foxes, without the nod to the Beach Boys or 1960s folk. The song erupts into a rocker, with rollicking snares and distorted power chords sending the listener off into a resounding outro.
I would argue that the album peaks with the fourth track, “Ferdinand Cheval.” A beautifully simple guitar riff serves as the introduction to this slow dance. The song takes its name from a 19th century French postman. Cheval spent the bulk of his life creating the Palais idéal. He began building in 1879 when he tripped over a stone and found himself inspired by its shape. The next day, Cheval returned to the same spot and began gathering. Pritchard sings:
It’ll take me years / It’ll take me years / There will be no other home / No other home / And on the way back, I couldn’t wait / Couldn’t wait to see / The gathering stones / That I made / They’re ideal / They’re ideal / You can bury me / Right here
For the next 33 years, Cheval would pick up stones during his rounds as a postman, returning each night to work beneath the light of an oil lamp on the construction of his palace. Though Cheval had requested to be buried within, he knew that French law made such a dream an impossibility. So he spent an additional eight years building a mausoleum in the Hauterives cemetery. He died in 1924, about a year after he had finished the mausoleum. Cheval rests there to this day,
This is the type of weighty material that Lost Left attempts to tackle on Levollinen. Many would argue that such pursuits are pretentious, and that sentiment certainly has its merits. However, there is something admirable about an attempt to translate the Palais idéal into a six-minute song, and the results are certainly rewarding for those willing to give the material a chance.
As is painfully obvious, I adore this release. From a musical standpoint, Lost Left has not reinvented the wheel. The arrangements, though voluminous, are rarely complex. The strength of this album is discovered when the listener peers beyond the surface and wrestles with the bold themes beneath. Listen to Levollinen in its entirety below. Downloads are available via Bandcamp, and CDs may be ordered upon request.
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Written by Rob Peoni