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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Hot Chip - 'In Our Heads'


Domino; 2012
Our Take - 8.3
Written by Kyle Talbot June 23, 2012

Sometime in between their first release and 2012's latest In Our Heads, Hot Chip has become a serious affair.  Liking Hot Chip has always been easy-- their tongue-in-cheek lyrics, four on the floor dance grooves, goofy persona's, and their make 'music for music's sake demeanor', but somewhere along the line they've grown into a seriously influential and powerful electronic music force, and a band that is easy to love.

Their maturation was apparent on 2010's outstanding and masterful One Life Stand.  Without dropping their humor or wits the Hot Chip started writing songs about serious topics like love, religion, devotion, and commitment.  The Trend continues with In Our Heads-- on mid-tempo house-y jam, "How Do You Do?", the lyric, "A church is not for praying/ It's for celebrating the light that bleeds through the pain,"is emphasized and stands as a motif or statement of purpose for the album.  The just under 8 minute, "Let Me Be Him," drifts and sways through layers of warm and atmospheric pop and features outstanding vocal contributions from both Joe Goddard and Alexis Taylor.  The track stands up with the best of the band's material and is the highlight of the album.  Then there is, "Night and Day," a 'sweaty' dance groove with a memory searing breakdown that has them at their funkiest since, "Shake a Fist." 

I don't know exactly know how or where In Our Heads will fit into Hot Chip's discography especially considering the now classic, The Warning, and the masterful, One Life Stand.  Without question, it stands as their most colorful album to date (not just considering the cover art), and it is certain to get better and better with each spin.  If one thing is certain it is that Hot Chip has asserted their relevance as a band.  The beauty is that they have done so without trying to be relevant, cool, important, or anything that they are not. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Walkmen - 'Heaven'

Fat Possum / Bella Union 2012
Our Take - 8.4
Written by Greg H. - June 15th, 2012

Starting out as a very scrappy, explosive, and in-your-face type band the Walkmen have grown up. With their seventh LP, Heaven, they seem to be comfortable with their growth, satisfied with their positions and absolutely content.

Heaven is a celebratory album of the phases of life the band have been through, and conquered. The members have all been settling down, getting married, having children and are completely satisfied with where they have landed. They feel content with their new lives, and display it with their album-opener "We Can't Be Beat." Leithauser's first words "I was the Duke of Earl, but it couldn't last / I was the Pony Express but ran out of gas," explain life at a crossroads, in need of some desperate change. The next few verses reinforce this idea, until the song comes to halt and Leithauser delivers the ultimate sentiment of contentment , "It's been so long but I made it through / We can't be beat."

The album continues on with many shimmering guitars, riffs that bring one back several decades, and subtle keys that occasionally explode with energy. "The Witch" comes off as a real nasty, devil-woman rock song, backed by the quick bursts of a powerful organ. The guitar ballad-based "Line by Line" is perfect for a late evening drive into the horizon and title track "Heaven" is one of the best songs they've put to record with it's persistent snare hits and desperation in the lines of the chorus.“Don’t leave me, you’re my best friend/All of my life, you’ve always been.”

Heaven continues to produce songs that are nearly impossible to get out of your head such as "Song for Leigh" and in the latter half of the album with "The Love You Love" and the title track "Heaven." Even with the catchiness of these songs, the album stays original and feels like a breath of fresh air. The vocal delivery and the lyrics come off as the most impressive, and are the focus of the album.

As they've reached the middle of their lives, it's hard to see where the Walkmen will go from here. This could be the beginning of a new era, or the bittersweet ending of a band that will go down as one of the premiere American indie rock bands. All in all, they have put together some of their finest work on 'Heaven', and the future looks promising if they choose to go in that direction. After 12 years of "scrapping by", it appears that the Walkmen have found themselves happy, contented, and comfortable.