One Life Stand (Astralwerks)
It's been tempting, since their breakthrough in 2006, to sing the praises of London's Hot Chip far and wide, but there's always been too serious a caveat: While singles like "Over and Over" and the sublime "Ready for the Floor" earned spots among the best dance tracks of the last decade, the albums they're pulled from are irreparably indulgent, making pop perfection look easy on two or three tracks and noisily avoiding it on the rest. But on their fourth, shortest, and most consistent album, the new One Life Stand, Hot Chip finally seem to be writing for the record and not just the dancefloor.
That's not to say there aren't some bangers to be found, particularly in the album's first half. Opener "Thieves in the Night" and the title track are standouts in the mold of Hot Chip's very best, starting out as standard (if slightly weird) synth-pop tracks and patiently unveiling new directions, hooks, and flourishes until everything collides at once. The album's alternately synthy and soul-steeped quieter moments are less exciting and bunch up in its second half, but they're still of uniform quality, and the sort of tracks that kept their previous records from collapsing completely. Hot Chip haven't yet made the record they seem capable of, but the focus here shows they're finally on their way.