Hot Chip went through a few different ideas after their 2012 album In Our Heads. Despite original plans to release a double album, it was eventually decided that they would record songs quickly and strip them down beyond what they’ve done before, to keep the soul in their music and make it feel more direct. Why Make Sense? is the end result.
Straight away, the opening song and lead single Huarache Lights makes these changes clear. The mid-tempo production with nothing more than minimal synths and a beat behind them is completely at odds to the lead single for their last album, Night & Day. Given room to breathe and use the minimal sounds to their best effect, it already feels like a good direction for their sound to move into, and the robotic atmosphere of Huarache Lights is as intriguing as it is enticing.
This feeling continues through most of the album, with the following song Love Is The Future taking it to an extreme, featuring even less in the way of synths and a drum beat than Huarache Lights, with constant pauses in sound being used in a way that adds to the song rather than detracts, making for something catchy but not overproduced. Cry For You follows a similar path, with clever use of distorted vocals mixing with live vocals in the chorus to create the hook. Little touches like these are big on the album, and act as the backbone of songs often.
The main issue is that this new minimal production style leads to a bit of similarity when applied to Hot Chip’s musical style. The best songs on the album tend to be frontloaded, meaning it slowly feels less exciting because of the changes and starts suffering from it. It never reaches the point where the album starts becoming boring, but songs become less memorable for all their little quirks and start becoming merely pleasant to listen to.
The exception to save the album comes with Need You Now, the eighth track out of ten, which takes the minimal sound in a different direction. Rather than being another synth-pop song, the beats in Need You Now give it a sound more akin to house music, complete with the repetitive structure that often comes with the genre. The little production quirks and melodies played over the beat give the song some extra elements that many of the earlier songs benefited from, but mixed with its unique style on the album help make it even more of a stand-out.
While it wasn’t a radical change, the desire for more direct music drags the album down slightly. The album starts with its best song and follows it up with the other strongest songs on the album, which would have made the tail end much harder to get through without the strategic placement of Need You Now. Why Make Sense? is a solid album from Hot Chip, even if it’s not their magnum opus.