Early on in their career, Hot Chip foregrounded their jokes as much as their grooves. Those winking early records proved a handy crossover between the indie and electronic-dance sides of their audience, but they weren’t as streamlined as electronic-dance records tend to be. The London band’s fifth album, In Our Heads, changes that — it’s built to move as one thing, rhythmically and tempo-wise, and also in terms of color and tone. Hot Chip have always made electronic music, but it hasn’t always sounded quite this electronic before — for that you usually had to wait for the remixes.
That isn’t to say they’ve given up on silliness — or, as is more likely the case (it can be hard to tell), the moments where they’re being as sincere as possible end up funny anyway, as on “Night and Day,” whose fluttering synths and disco groove nod toward Michael Jackson (as does the title, an inversion of “Working Day & Night,” from Off the Wall), or the tongue-in-cheek cheer of “Don’t Deny Your Heart,” which resembles something that might have once been cooked up for Rick Astley. But In Our Heads seems more heartfelt than anything else Hot Chip has done, as well as more polished: Vocalist Alexis Taylor’s high tenor is at its most affecting on “How Do You Do?,” but the track’s early-’90s house feel — clean synth lines, blurting bass — draws the ear just as much as the emotion. They’ve never quite been this sweet or approachable.