Hot Chip’s fifth album, In Our Heads, arrives today amid both an orgy of expectation and oodles of early acclaim. The latest long-player by London’s accessible electronic popsters follows in the wake of their biggest success so far in America, 2010’s One Life Stand. For all the aforementioned reasons and more, In Our Heads will not lack for attention, so it might be more productive to celebrate its release by peeking down a less traveled path on the Hot Chip musical map. Part of the Grammy-nominated group’s appeal is the fact that, despite their expertise at electronic production techniques and their undeniable dance-floor know-how, they have classic pop songwriting skills that add emotional heft and harmonic sophistication to their tracks. As proof, we went digging for the most momentous clips of artists offering up acoustic covers of Hot Chip’s synth-savvy tunes, from star turns to under-the-radar discoveries. There haven’t been this many folkies swooning over synth-pop tunes since Iron and Wine cut a Postal Service song.
1. Grizzly Bear, “Boy From School”
Brooklyn’s favorite art-folk outfit transmutes the percolating electro-disco feel of this single from Hot Chip’s second album, The Warning, into an atmospheric, acoustic guitar-based outing that emphasizes the lonesome feeling at the heart of the song.
2. Duffy, “Ready For the Floor”
In the hands of U.K. neo-soul siren Duffy, this invitation to dance evolves from Hot Chip’s Grammy-nominated, house-inflected 2008 single into a sultry slow-burner whose aching proposition feels like a significantly more sensual offer.
3. Paolo Nutini, “Over and Over”
The Scottish songsmith with the Italian name achieves the Y chromosome equivalent of Duffy’s deconstruction, transforming the clip-cloppy Hot Chip hit into a smoldering, sensitive-troubadour ballad clearly capable of inducing a potentially hazardous degree of swooning in Nutini’s immediate vicinity.
4. The Sleep Tapes, “I Feel Better”
The original version of this dance hit from One Life Stand is about as close as a club-banging cut can come to philosophical introspection, but Sleep Tapes, the L.A. one-man band manned by Noah Sturm, brings “I Feel Better” to the backwoods, giving it a spooky Bon Iver aura and upping the ante by basing it all around a banjo.
5. Jacob Reufer, “Made in the Dark”
Seeing as how the title track from Hot Chip’s 2008 album was a soft-sell (Not Soft Cell!) ballad to begin with, reinterpreting it with an unplugged feel would require going the extra mile, but young Midwesterner Jacob Ruefer is up for the task, abandoning instruments entirely for an a cappella arrangement that manages to come off even moodier than its model.