Rostam Batmanglij, keyboardist/producer for Vampire Weekend, and Wes Miles, Ra Ra Riot's frontman, are largely responsible for two of the highest caliber indie-rock records released last year — but their partnership as Discovery treads in a different territory. LP is a Top 40-topping, synth-smeared, R&B-leaning pop record that could quite possibly be playing in the dressing rooms at Forever 21 at this very moment. If they set out to make a summer jam record — something for sweaty twenty-somethings to grind up on each other over — then LP succeeds. But on a meaningful level, Discovery doesn't do much to provide anything beyond tongue-in-cheek jokes.
Their cover of Ra Ra Riot's "Can You Tell," cleverly re-named "Can You Discover?" is a cool idea: an exercise in self-awareness and a test to see if a single melody and identical lyrics can work in two separate genres. The vulnerable, string-laden love song becomes a sexy slow-burner with Miles' Auto-Tuned vocals gliding over cascading drum beats. Until the end. When it gets ridiculous. The Auto-Tune goes wacky, distorting his vocals so he sounds like a monster moving in slow motion. It may seem like a slight complaint, but it's representative of bigger things. They push things too far for the sake of being funny, ultimately cheapening the original song and zoning in on a problem they run into repeatedly. What sucks is knowing how smart and tasteful these guys are outside of Discovery, and LP is riddled with reminders. "Osaka Loop Line," a more modest, precise blitz of beeps and blips, echoes the Postal Service. Album highlight "So Insane" lifts from the last 20 years of pop music, from Chris Brown to "The Electric Slide," creating a fabric of runaway beats and frazzled melody that drives in, gets knocked around, and refuses to let up. They take the jabs that got slung Vampire Weekend's way about unfairly appropriating outside of traditional indie-rock influences and run with them. These are talented guys. Once they realize that Hot Chip isn't a band that should be providing emotional benchmarks, they're going to be fine. And if they don't, they've got side-projects to fall back on. Lauren Beck