February 15, 2010: Reviews
Four Tet – There Is Love In You (Domino) ****
And the spate of brilliant, must-buy CDs continues. Kieran (Four Tet) Hebden is a contrary so-and-so. His last proper album Everything Ecstatic was hateful and the only time I’ve seen him DJ, it felt like he was largely there to bring us down and make our ears bleed. His latest, though, marks a return the form we last properly heard on his 2003 Rounds album. What he specialises in mainly is cerebral, slightly chilly and remote electro boffinry in the fine tradition of Kraftwerk and John Carpenter. But there are also plenty of outbreaks of tinkling, chimey, bubbling loveliness in the manner of Orbital, plus something of Underworld’s sweet melancholy and Boards Of Canada’s immense sonic vistas. Really, electronica doesn’t get much better than this.
Owl City – Ocean Eyes (Island) ***
Tim Burton loves this album. So do my kids. Says it all really. Unfortunately they’ve reached the age where they like their pop twee, processed and saccharine, which I’m afraid Owl City very much is, with fluffy marshmallow chunks of whimsy floating on top. Nice back story: shy 23-year old Minnesotan Alex Young uploads his DIY synth pop compositions onto My Space; 50 million hits and two albums later, he’s number one on both sides of the Atlantic with cute and winsome, AutoTune-drenched, undeniably catchy Fireflies. But if you’re expecting sparks and danger from the rest of the album, don’t. What he needs is a Four Tet remix.
Hot Chip – One Life Stand (Parlophone) ****
By spooky coincidence Hot Chip attended the same South London comprehensive as Four Tet. I don’t know what the opposite of a grower is – a shrinker, maybe? – but whatever it was, that’s how I felt about their first two albums. With each listen I got more annoyed by singer Alex’s nerve-jarring faux-tender wheedle, by the odd mix of electronic coldness and dreadful, soupy soft-soul. Here, though, all is forgiven. It’s an immaculate dance album with pretty much everything in the right place: great tunes, clever arrangements, Alex’s vocals sounding not nearly so irksome, and none of that uptightness which made their earlier work such a trial.