Hot Chip

A Bath Full of Ecstasy

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On A Bath Full of Ecstasy, Hot Chip respond to the oppressive feel of the late 2010s with songs that aren't overtly political, but emphasize how important compassion and empathy are during hard times. If there's any band suited to deliver this message, it's Hot Chip: On albums like One Life Stand, they excelled at making music that's equally intimate and capable of filling dance floors. Their wit and tenderness have only grown over the years, and there's plenty of both on A Bath Full of Ecstasy, which feels as informed by the bandmembers' time raising their families and collaborating with Katy Perry as it does by horrors such as the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox. On the lovely album opener "Melody of Love," Alexis Taylor, Joe Goddard, and company give their listeners the musical equivalent of a group hug; later, they examine just how hard it can be to stay hopeful on "Positive"'s crystal-clear synth pop. While A Bath Full of Ecstasy's personality is unmistakably Hot Chip, sometimes its music is a little less distinctive than their previous work. As part of the album's mission statement of reaching out, the band worked with outside producers (Philippe Zdar and Rodaidh McDonald) for the first time to help them continue the streamlining of their music that they began on Why Make Sense? Sometimes, these collaborations expand their sound in exciting ways: The funky, percolating "Spell" -- a song they initially wrote for Perry, then kept for themselves -- harks back to "Over and Over," but where it might have spun in ever tighter circles on an earlier album, here it opens into meditative passages that throw its quirky groove into sharper relief. This reflective feel also works well on the soulful title track, which suggests that love is a substance just as mind-altering as any drug. Toward the end of the album, however, the contemplative vibe feels a bit meandering, and songs such as "Clear Blue Skies" and the baggy homage "No God" are more pleasant than gripping. Hot Chip indulge their retro fixation more compellingly on "Echo," where late-'80s and early-'90s synth sounds and beats add a layer of irony to Taylor's admonition to "leave your past behind," and on "Hungry Child," a slow-burning earworm that bridges classic house and the chilled-out feel of late-2010s electronic pop. Immersive, joyous, but sometimes insubstantial, A Bath Full of Ecstasy lives up to its name in more ways than one. Even if it's not as consistent as some of Hot Chip's other albums, it's still a welcome, well-intended, and timely respite from the world at its worst.

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