Release Date: Apr 20, 2018
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
As its members continue to pursue other projects of their own, the possibility that Hot Chip is in fact less than the sum of its parts becomes increasingly convincing. Joe Goddard has embraced the sweatier side of their sound as half of The 2 Bears, and as New Build, Al Doyle and Felix Martin have produced more ambient comedown music. Meanwhile Alexis Taylor has explored the jazzier, improvisational side of things with About Group and played something closer to a singer-songwriter part with his solo work.
Populist wisdom has Alexis Taylor conveniently compartmentalised. He enjoys a smarty/party disco in his Hot Chip day job; he gets all arty in avant side project About Group; and his solo albums are full of introspection and country covers. Yes, there's an obvious cerebral agenda that bleeds through them all - who else releases a companion album designed to be played at the same time as your piano-only release? - but that is very much that.
If his previous three albums have flown under the radar a little, then his fourth stands as a piece of work that may finally prompt the masses to take notice. Standing as the first that he's made alongside an outside producer, Beautiful Thing sees him enlist the help of Tim Goldsworthy - co-founder of record labels Mo Wax and DFA Recordings and member of highly acclaimed trip hop band UNKLE - but this change hasn't prompted dramatic alterations in his sound. Given Hot Chip are known for crafting individualist pop that eschews familiar trappings, it should be no surprise that Beautiful Thing similarly avoids traditional frameworks.
Alexis Taylor's new album, Beautiful Thing, begins with a slightly muffled, boompty beat, part throbbing of the heart and part pounding of a speaker heard through a bathroom door. "I'm dreaming another life," Taylor sings, his voice quavering sweetly. "Won't you meet me out of your mind?" Taylor has spent the last 15 years or so dreaming things up. As the lead singer of Hot Chip, he imagined working-class British versions of American R&B (their 2004 debut, Coming on Strong), disco abandon (2008's "Ready for the Floor"), and '90s diva house (2015's "Need You Now").
Alexis Taylor has never been an obvious solo artist for two reasons. Firstly, his band, Hot Chip, always felt greater than the sum of its parts and secondly, Taylor's vocals, which are undeniably pretty but often lacking in forcefulness, were never the band's strongest feature. His past two solo albums have acknowledged this unlikeliness, in the sense that they've both felt like deliberately minor releases.
Two years ago, Alexis Taylor released solo album 'Piano', a record that allowed him to explore some of the more sentimental leanings of his writing through a stripped-back and thoroughly exposed collection. Through hearing the pulsing beats and shapeshifting sonic landscape on opener 'Dreaming Another Life', it's immediately apparent that 'Beautiful Thing' is a very different beast. It's the first time Alexis has worked with a producer, teaming up with Tim Goldsworthy (formerly of Unkle and DFA).
Alexis Taylor has never been just been one thing. He's best known as the lead singer of British electronica band Hot Chip, but those who have dug around in the London musician's wider discography will know Taylor is a bit of a musical polymath. His first solo album 'Rubbed Out' was a gorgeous collection of electric-tinged pop and his most recent, 2016's 'Piano' put emphasis on his songwriting abilities - stripping back his songs to their core.
Some artists use solo albums to experiment outside the day job while others cut the background noise. The latter is the case for Hot Chip founders Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard, who, separated from each other, double down on what they each individually bring to the band. 2017 saw them both prove this. Goddard's first solo LP offered a collection of hip-shaking dance hits.
Since the release of Hot Chip's 'Why Make Sense?' in 2015, frontman Alexis Taylor has conceived three solo albums. His latest Tim Goldsworthy-produced effort takes some digesting, but it's perhaps his most inventive and eclectic collection yet. 'Beautiful Thing' manages to channel disco, glitchy electronica and sombre piano balladry - there's even a Prince-ish moment of gratifying '80s nous during closer 'Out Of Time'.
Few artists have covered more ground in modern pop than Alexis Taylor. Whether fronting Hot Chip, performing in improvisational quartet About Group or making music as Fainting By Numbers alongside minimal techno producer Justus Köhncke, the 38-year-old has resisted comfort zones and sonic polarities, all while carving out a solo career every bit as mottled as his collaborative work. On paper, his first solo endeavour working with a producer (Tim Goldsworthy, co-founder of Mo Wax and DFA Recordings, and member of UNKLE), Beautiful Thing should expand upon this synergetic streak.