A Slice of Fried Gold

A Tale of Two Keyboards

Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Today brings us a release from two of the more interesting and innovative bands in indie music today - Yeasayer and Hot Chip. While both have been reviewed very well, one has resonated completely with me while the other started strong but has taking a downturn with increased listens. Given that they both focus on electropop, it's kind of interesting how their divergences has led to one of the releases having legs with me while the other has not. See which is which below.

Hot Chip - One Life Stand

From the first seconds of this album, I knew it was going be a hit with me. The warm synth that leads off "Thieves in the Night" leading into the driving drum beat...man, there is just something special about that intro. There is something just so simple and wonderful about the intro that exists as a microcosm for the album as a whole - a new found warmth and focus on dance pop that appeared from time to time on previous albums but never existed throughout.

While looking at this album you find yourself naturally comparing it to their other seminal releases like Made in the Dark and The Warning. While both of those albums had higher highs than this album (namely "Ready for the Floor" and "Over and Over" respectively), both felt like albums made by an experimental band grasping for an identity and trying a lot of things out in the process.

Yet One Life Stand grasps this concept perfectly. You have a lot of pop gems here, such as lead off tracks "Thieves in the Night", "Hand Me Down Your Love", "I Feel Better" and "One Life Stand." While they never quite hit you like a sledgehammer, they exist beyond when the track ends, sticking in your mind like all of the best do.

By the time they actually slow down the pace and give us a trio of more ballad like tracks in "Brothers", "Slush", and "Alley Cats", we're perfectly ready as listeners. They provide a nice mid album balance, slowing things down and still hitting all of the emotional targets. "Alley Cats" in itself is very cleverly designed, as it begins as a bit of a slower tempo track but by the end it reveals itself as something else entirely.

For the album as a whole, I find that album closer "Take It In" is my favorite to date. There's a darkness and a level of danger to combat the sweetness of the rest of the album that we just don't see elsewhere. The vocals themselves balance out the track with a matter of fact, deliberate nature in the verse and a real level of sweetness in the chorus. By the time the track closes with the band layering vocals to say "And oh, my heart has flown to you just like a dove...It can fly, it can fly" you realize that this track could be a statement of what they were trying to do as a band with this album.

Their heart has flown to me as a listener, and I find myself quite receptive. Quite receptive, indeed.

Final Verdict: A

Yesayer - Odd Blood

From the very first time I heard "Ambling Alp", the lead single off of this album, I knew I was going to like this album. It's such an incredibly engaging track, effortlessly combining the more experimental aspects of the group with the pop sensibilities that help them reach their heighest peaks.

When I first saw this group at Sasquatch 2008, I knew they had to have quite the creative process given that the four musicians comprising the band could not look any more disparate. Listening to their album All Hours Cymbals really sells that, as it is a genre shifting release that has issues focusing. Their experimentalism gets in the way of their ability to create effective pop tracks.

I guess that sort of leads into my main problem with this album as well, as tracks like "Ambling Alp", "Madder Red", "I Remember", and "O.N.E." really kill it, while scores of others do not. Those aforementioned tracks use their more experimental thoughts to be more affecting from a listenability standpoint, using surprising harmonies and instrumental arrangements to really engage you as a listener.

The weirdest thing is I found almost every track (even the weird as hell opener "The Children") to be engaging through the first few listens. Yet quite like other artists who marry an experimental sound with pop, like Animal Collective, I found myself tiring of individual tracks. Sure, the highlights stick with me, but ultimately, I find myself skipping through certain tracks or just adding individual songs to playlists. While I ultimately really wanted to highlight this album as a major step forward, finding myself skipping around at will is not the foundation of a highlight worthy record.

Another odd thing is I find something to draw my interest on every track, but there are only elements that peak my interest. Like on "Love Me Girl", I love the build up of it. The instrumental arrangements with the driving piano notes and the synth flourishes and random vocal notes suck me in. Then the vocals start and I almost always skip the track.

However, I must note that some of the tracks on this album are so catchy and unique that they'd be near the top of my favorite tracks list so far this year. "O.N.E." in particular, as it is like an experimental dance track from my dreams and has found its way into my rotation of favorite workout songs very quickly (in my world, that's like receiving a Platinum Record).

All in all though, when I try to recall most of the album, I'm left with few lasting impressions. If this was an EP of my favorite tracks, it'd be marvelous. But it isn't, so I'm found wanting a little more from the rest of the album. I want an album comprised of great songs, not elements of songs. I think that day will come from Yeasayer eventually, just like it did for Hot Chip on their most recent release.

Final Verdict: C


Patty said...

I'm liking Hot Chip. Hello from Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Troy Olson said...

I'm really liking the new Hot Chip as well.

It feels like an expansion in sound/style from their prior two albums (both of which I liked songs from, but didn't love on the whole) and it's always nice to get a little progression on a band's third album, so good for them.

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