New Build is a project by Al Doyle, Felix Martin, and Tom Hopkins, all members or affiliates of the band Hot Chip. On the heels of releases from side projects by two other members of Hot Chip (About Group and The 2 Bears), and with a new album on the way from their main band, it seems like it would be easy to dismiss New Build as merely another lesser distillation of Hot Chip’s sound. While such a classification is not unwarranted, as there are few ideas on Yesterday Was Lived And Lost that you won’t find on a Hot Chip release, New Build do show us why these projects are still worth listening to by sticking to their strengths and getting solid results.
To be fair, there are a few elements that differentiate this from a Hot Chip album. Obviously, neither of Hot Chip’s vocalists (Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard) are present. Without Taylor, New Build doesn’t venture far into the kind of blue-eyed soul that Hot Chip is so good at integrating into their music. Without Goddard’s deep, robotic voice and additional contributions on synth, the album tends to sound a bit more organic. Instead, Al Doyle steps up to the plate, and while his voice doesn’t dominate the songs quite like those two vocalists do, it can be surprisingly affecting. Leadoff track “Medication” is the best showcase of this.
In lieu of having a more distinctive and magnetic voice behind the songs, taking a more prominent role is the rhythm section. Funky bass lines and extra percussion abound brings to mind Remain In Light-era Talking Heads, especially on the clever, upbeat “Misery Loves Company” and the dark urban vibe of “Finding Reasons.” The rhythm section isn’t as shifty as Hot Chip’s can be, and the songs on top of it aren’t as whimsical either, but it lays a solid foundation for the tracks to groove along to. The result is something that sounds more deliberate than spastic; the work of professionals that know what they’re good at and don’t try anything more.
The album is front-loaded, as the album starts out with three of its best songs (not counting the introduction): “Medication,” “Misery Loves Company,” and “Miranda, Be My Guide.” The second side of the album is hardly a weak one though, featuring highlights like the pulsing “Do You Not Feel Loved?” the urgent “Mercy,” and the intimate “Last Gasp.”
Yesterday Was Lived And Lost isn’t a record that blows the roof off. It is a very even, consistent dance album that has no major missteps, making it a fun listen, but the songs don’t tend to venture far from where they started, and none of the sounds are surprising for what it is. It’s just a Hot Chip side project that sounds like a Hot Chip side project, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but nothing terribly exciting either.
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