One Life Stand is an album made to be listened to in Aberdeen, Scotland. It is icy yet warm and familiar, with a sense of being frozen and timeless, as if it could belong anywhere. It’s also comfortingly monochrome; the songs all form a sort of melancholic soup onto which you project your own thoughts and feelings, much like the Aberdonian landscape.
Which is not to say the songs aren’t individually brilliant. The title track caves in from robust, falsely uncaring interrogation into a weeping request for monogamy. Or listen to the way Alexis sings “You are my loveline” on “Hand Me Down Your Love” and try to imagine ever turning him away. God, it makes you shake. It’s a truly unique voice, quivering and feeble in the corner but much too beautiful to ignore, like a kitten. Alexis Taylor so immensely surpasses Amy Winehouse, Duffy etc etc as the greatest soul singer of our age. He is David Byrne crossed with Fontella Bass, in that he has total confidence only in his own insecurities and failings. Like all the best music (or art, or friends, or anything), it makes the deficiencies we’re all burdened with feel like blessings.
Loneliness, confusion and an ever-shifting sense of identity, in the world of Hot Chip, seem like the things everyone should choose to feel. With a voice this beautiful, anything can be sold. The nerdy and the lonesome made epic heroes through sheer beauty of expression alone; tears are mightier than the pen.
“The synths only exist to bubble and hiss in dutiful appreciation underneath the pure, virginal serenity of the vocals.”
Voices dominate this record. The synths on previous Hot Chip records have been what made them hits, think of “Boy From School” or “Over and Over”, and then the midpoint, “Ready For The Floor”, where vocals and synths hit parity in the most beautiful way possible. But on this album the voices have taken over. The synths only exist to bubble and hiss in dutiful appreciation underneath the pure, virginal serenity of the vocals. Like Ibsen’s Peer Gynt is, as all Educating Rita fans know, a play for voices, so this is an album for voices. Voices to nestle in your ears on another walk home, voices to buttress you at your weakest moments, voices to settle chest pains. Voices, such voices.
© James Hampson, Music Vice