Fresh and exciting electronica
Alexis Taylor, the frontman of British electronic group Hot Chip, has put together a collection of experimental jams and heartfelt songs for his fourth full-length, Beautiful Thing. His last solo album was Listen With(out) Piano in 2017, which was the rearranging of his 2016 full-length Piano. Taylor collaborated on the project with Tim Goldsworthy, the co-founder of DFA Records and member UNKLE and LCD Soundsystem. This album marks the first time Taylor has worked on a solo album with an outside producer. Using Taylor’s demos as a base, Tim built up the tracks with the two doing a lot of experimenting on the way. In a sense, they were trying to see “how far we could go down the experimental route without it just becoming noise.”
Beautiful Thing displays the myriad of influences Taylor has as an artist. Across the tracks, he bends genres and draws from some classic inspirations. His lyrics and song ideas came from his “ongoing examinations of his own emotions and dreams.” The production takes various twists and turns through dark, progressive sounds and other more warm and upbeat arrangements.
The title track came about as a happy accident when Goldsworthy opened up the digital files of one of Taylor’s demos and the tracks were all out of sync. Different sections of interesting production flow into each other resulting in an energetic piano house beat. It’s the most complete experimental vision the two created on the album.
On “Roll on Blank Tapes,” Taylor describes the creation of a musical piece over a lethargic beat. He delivers the most truth with the line, “Drum machines have got no soul.” The lyric is fitting given how some choices in the rhythm section on this album feel a little robotic.
“A Hit Song,” which is partly about the process of songwriting, finds Taylor alone with a piano and gives off some Coldplay vibes. “Hit songs don’t always tell the truth,” his sings with a melancholy tone. He gives a beautiful, emotional performance while showing off the softness of his upper register. It’s a refreshing break in the rhythm of a sometimes busy, electro amalgamation of sounds.
“Oh Baby” throws in some ‘60s soul with a rollicking-rhythm. Light-hearted and upbeat, it bounces along with Taylor’s romantic lyrics. Even with the happy feel, it still includes what he dubs the “ugly-sounding” elements as the track concludes with some electronic bleeps. “I Feel You” begins like a John Lennon style ballad with a lone piano and a slapback-echo on his voice. Some heavenly-sounding background vocals accompany him as he sings, “I am here for you and everything you do.” Within an album that covers a lot of experimental, electronic territory and that can give off at times a frenzied energy, it does indeed have it’s tender moments which arrive on the second half of the album.