Release Date: May 19, 2015
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Club/Dance, Indie Electronic, Alternative Dance
The key theme of Hot Chip’s career has always been balance—their blend of organic and electronic elements, of silliness and poignancy. And when the creative scales even out (like on their front-to-back 2006 triumph, The Warning), they’re the most forward-thinking, intellectually engaging dance-related band on the planet. Why Make Sense? exemplifies that balance better than any of their previous five LPs.
“Let Me Be Him”, the penultimate track of 2012’s Hot Chip LP In Our Heads concludes with the couplet: “All this sense in me/Is going to be the death of me”. It was a bold and surprising statement to find on a record that, refreshingly, had such concrete assurances in regards to the fulfilment one finds in relationships and, in particular, love. Interestingly, it also mirrors a sentiment found on Why Make Sense?’s title track and album-closer, where Alexis Taylor sings: “Why make sense when the world around refuses?”, thus both rendering “sense” to pessimism and futility.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Very early in LCD Soundsystem's existence, frontman James Murphy was already questioning whether what he was doing was any good. In the ever-evolving world of dance music, it's easy to feel like you're playing catch-up to people with more skill or more money to buy better equipment. 'Losing My Edge' addressed this issue directly.
It's interesting to note that Hot Chip's string of great albums -- beginning with Made in the Dark -- coincided with their exploration of the joys of long-term relationships. Celebrating monogamy while avoiding monotony applies to how they make music, as well: on the surface, Why Make Sense? is another album of wry, kinetic electro-pop from a group that has mastered the style, but it also builds on Hot Chip's roots -- and dance music's origins -- in ways that sound fresh. The band reunited with In Our Heads producer Mark Ralph, and they expand on that album's joyousness, this time imbuing it with elements of R&B, hip-hop, and, especially, disco.
The most striking thing you notice on the first listen of Why Make Sense? is what’s not there. This is not an album overloaded with layers of sound. It’s not an album of dancefloor bangers or songs about monkeys with miniature cymbals. Why Make Sense? is a stripped back affair, an album of emotionally intelligent, lithe, pared back R&B.
The need to make music is achingly strong for Hot Chip. So much so that in the intervening years since their last long player, In Our Heads in 2012, the band have once again turned to their many meaningful side projects – Alexis Taylor’s solo career, Al Doyle and Felix Martin’s New Build and Joe Goddard’s The 2 Bears continuing to flourish. Yet when they come together as a quintet, special things happen.
Why make sense, indeed? Commercial logic would dictate that the sixth album by a 15-year-old band might supply some unique or novel twist to Hot Chip’s tale – a startling musical development, perhaps, or some unexpected, bankable guest spot to reconfirm the quintet’s place in the pop firmament. But at a time when their life choices are perhaps becoming more National Trust v English Heritage annual membership rather than MDMA v ketamine, Hot Chip have not strapped on acoustic guitars. Adele does not feature as the soul belter on a deep house-indebted track.
Hot Chip's sixth studio album, Why Make Sense?, marks a departure from a number of characteristics that have defined the band over time. To begin, WMS? is the first album that the five piece live band has recorded together. That live dynamic adds warmth, looseness and what one might call a playful energy to the songs.
You couldn’t exactly describe Holly Herndon’s second album as a collection of club bangers. Berlin’s techno scene inspired her foray into technology-obsessed electronic music, but Platform takes a futuristic step beyond your average Eurotrance rave – imagine a robot-party playlist peppered with warped, processed vocals and jittery cascades of sub-bass frequencies and you’re not far off. In a recent Guardian interview, Herndon described the laptop as a “hyper-emotional instrument”; she turns cold, lifeless synthetic beats into disconcerting, disjointed rhythms that glitch and collapse on each other in the style of FKA Twigs producer Arca, Aphex Twin or Maria Minerva.
Among the many lessons pop learned from Daft Punk’s ‘Random Access Memories’ in 2013 – Pharrell guarantees you a million-seller, Muppets songwriter Paul Williams matches well with hip French electro – there was another compelling discovery: live drums still sound fantastic on a dance record. Daft Punk had Michael Jackson and Miles Davis collaborator Omar Hakim doing the business, Hot Chip have their rather less starry touring member Sarah Jones, but the effect doesn’t waver. Powered by Jones’ beats, the quintet’s sixth album ‘Why Make Sense?’ has an organic power that puts it a cut above their previous machine-driven efforts.
It'd be stretching it to call them geeks, but one suspects that part of Hot Chip's continued attraction is just how comfortable Alexis Taylor, Joe Goddard and pals are in being a bit, well, uncool. The deadliest thing about being flavour of the month is that tastes change quickly. Coming 11 years after their debut, 'Why Make Sense?' is Hot Chip's sixth album – which says everything about their staying power and explains their decision not to tinker too much with the formula: crystalline dance-pop with a seam of pure, euphoric house running through it.
Hot Chip records always have a sweet spot – be it the first single to get radio play or the slow-build, pre-release white label that teases the direction the band are heading in next. For 2012’s In Our Heads, the lolling Flutes did this perfectly. This time round, the surprise release of Huarache Lights signposted the sound of Hot Chip’s sixth album.
Hot Chip have built a career on transcending and challenging the parameters of dance music. Their sixth full-length LP, Why Make Sense?, is certainly no different, and listeners will find more than a few breaks in style and diversions in genre throughout its brief run time. Like the title implies, Hot Chip set out to question why consistency is even a virtue at all.
"Let's fuck shit up," suggests Alexis Taylor on a bonus track from Hot Chip’s sixth album. "Let's go for a rollercoaster ride—even a shit rollercoaster ride." The lines are pure punk while everything around them is anything but: Taylor sounds like the universe's loneliest astronaut as synth pulses blink in blackness behind him. The song is called "Burning Up" and it's vintage Hot Chip: funny where it might be wistful; wistful where it might be funny.
With few lyrics, ubiquitous sampling, and a beat that takes over your body, dance music has always provided an easy route for escape. It’s meant to rinse your brain of worries. Now 15 years past their formation, Hot Chip are left to question their place in the genre. When will they be replaced? What are people turning to them for? Most importantly, why keep going? No one is looking for answers, but everyone is looking for a temporary way out.
In their music videos, English synthpop outfit Hot Chip have done a lot of crazy things. In “Boy From School”, the members of the band find themselves all used as part of a bizarro art installation. The infamous “I Feel Better” video depicts Hot Chip as a corporate boy band being destroyed by a giant, laser-emitting floating head and a figure that some have called “Bald Cancer Jesus”.
Death and taxes are, so the adage goes, the two certainties in life. Of course that’s an ancient proverb, one that obviously predates the likes of Starbucks, Amazon and Google. So, with the taxes bit out, how do we update it for the 21st century? Death and Sergio Agüero being forced wide but still getting his shot on target? I don’t know, I’m a Man City fan so I’d rather not jinx the guy.
“Why make sense, when the world around refuses?” begs the title track of Hot Chip's sixth album. It's a variation on the theme of surrender to irrational forces—instinct, nature, lust, love—common to dance music as far back as James Brown's emphatic enjoinments to Sleezy D.'s acid classic “I've Lost Control.” The members of Hot Chip are, by their own admission, incorrigible music nerds, so the genre's history and form is their bread and butter. They've also made a career of matching sophisticated dance-pop to tragicomically unsophisticated heartache and yearning.
More than a decade into their career, Hot Chip are something of a juggernaut. The indie equivalent of a conglomerate like LVMH, they offset their Grammy-nominated pop by keeping a foot in the underground dance world, thanks to their DJ careers and a long-time affiliation with DFA. They got to this point by writing dance floor-savvy hits: "Over And Over," "Boy From School" and most recently "Flutes.
On their sixth LP, Hot Chip look back toward their disco, soul and funk rootstocks. The clavinet on "Started Right" is straight-up Seventies Stevie Wonder, dressed in disco strings; "Love Is the Future" crosses Minneapolis funk with Motor City techno and an old-school verse from De La Soul's Posdnuos. This is dance music, handmade. "Machines are great, but best when they come to life," Alexis Taylor sings on the wistful "Huarache Lights." Here, they do.
Why Make Sense?, the latest album from British electronic band Hot Chip, wants to woo you. It’s a late-night record, made for both bedroom serenades and last-call slow-jams alike. The group’s dance music has always mixed a healthy dose of reverence in with its hedonism, extolling the beauty of both the fleeting and the eternal. And while soulful come-ons have long been an essential part of the band’s makeup, the new album places that element of seduction front and center.
The UK quintet returns with their sixth album, and with each release Hot Chip seems to slightly warp their sound and tap into different influences while maintaining their quirky core. Joe Goddard and Alexis Taylor continue to share vocal duties with Taylor’s gentle falsetto guiding most of the songs, effortlessly adding a soulful layer to each track . Why Make Sense is a cool and collected album that will easily induce dancing—such as with “Easy To Get;” an upbeat song that starts quietly with plucky bass, guitar and high synths before transitioning to a house mix for the last 40 seconds.
Something remarkable starts to come into view by the end of Hot Chip’s new album. “Why Make Sense?” makes it clear that as electronic dance music has cycled through various moments — rest in peace, chillwave — this English quintet has never been pigeonholed or tethered to a single strain in its 15-year history. With each successive album, Hot Chip has managed to stay not ahead of the curve, but rather in its own lane altogether.
Hot Chip has a discreet but unmistakable contrarian streak. An English band formed in 2000 by its lead singer and keyboardist, Alexis Taylor, and its main composer, Joe Goddard, Hot Chip is grounded in dance music but constructs pop songs, not open-ended grooves. And its club beats carry more introspection and insecurity than escapism or simple hedonism.
On 2012's In Our Heads, Hot Chip hit their stride in terms of lyrics that were as vulnerable and complex as they were accessible. The British group's sixth album sees them refining their fraught, existential balladry but dials back the multi-layered club beats in exchange for a live-band feel that trains a brighter spotlight on Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard's songwriting chops. Need You Now, with its 90s house diva vibe, is the lone track that bluntly nods to current trends in dance music.
We devour music at such a feverish pace that, more and more, great collections of songs fall through the cracks. In the case of the past six weeks, we uncovered such missed gems as Sacred Bones’ idea of body music and Phil Elverum’s take on Mark Kozelek’s confessional style. Meanwhile, a ….
In a landscape dominated by dance music, Hot Chip are a bit of an anomaly because they are a band. Indie dance groups of their ilk were all the rage during those DFA-fueled mid-Aughts. In the last decade, though, disco has grown increasingly maximalist and strangely Messianic. One man—almost always a man—raises his hands above crowds of thousands that writhe and jump in ecstasy at his offerings.