Review Summary: more proof that music is worth exploring
For decades now, music has been discussed as if class doesn't exist anymore. Computers, the great equalizer, were supposed to remove any barriers to success that used to exist. And while it is technically possible for people to succeed from absolutely nowhere in a way that it previously wasn't, popularity has more to do with almost literal chance than anything else. The power is no longer consciously under the control of a few select people at the top who get to choose their replacements, but there's still definitively a 1% and a 99%, even if the split happens unintentionally. The advantage we have now, though, is that we get to decide which one we're going to listen to. Is it a fair decision? No, of course not. Advertisements and playlist inclusions for the established are everywhere, people whose interest in music is at all casual won't have the time to find truly underground artists, payouts are unethically miniscule, and labels spent most of the 2010s redefining independence to suit their interests. That being said, while payola is slowly infiltrating streaming and anyone without thousands of hours of experience can't tell the difference, we really have a unique opportunity right now to support who we want in music.
So the question is, who do you want to champion? For me, it's artists like Hot Tub Boys. I've been following their work since 2014, under various aliases and genres. The natural next step for an artist who grew through Soundcloud remixes and sample-heavy disco loops was, of course, French house. Since my first real obsession in music was Daft Punk, this is exciting for me. Like the aforementioned duo, Hot Tub Boys has a strict sense of quality control, with this being their first longform project since 2015. Unfortunately, part of this delay is because they don't have the opportunity to just produce all the music they want - they don't have the time, because they have to work to finance themselves and their dreams. And these are amazing dreams. "Yikes" is maybe my top house track of the past few years, a shuffling restorative anthem that is equal parts DJ Seinfeld and Round One. "Page 5 Honey" is a 909-heavy bass trip with electro elements that could sing its way into house clubs. "Wingwingwing" is an 8-minute track that not only reaches for legacy but actually holds on to it, a new feat for the artist, bending and unfolding, reminiscent of Four Tet or Jon Hopkins. Tracks at the beginning and end, "TJ's Last Delivery" and "Specs," achieve the difficult balancing act of functioning both as individual songs and pre/postludes.
Within the scope of the album, there's a catalog of dance music. The label French house might make you think of cheesy nu-disco, but that's not what happens here. Think of it as a modern project with all the advantages that come with outsider house - the experimentalism and lo-fi aesthetic - emulating the best aspects of 1980s Power House and Strictly Rhythm the best it can. So for me, a fan of all the genres and adjectives I've named so far, and even the title’s reference to one of my most-loved films, this is an ideal project. I hope you'll give it a chance, and clearly, Hot Tub Boys hope so too. This is the journey they've taken, emotionally and musically. There's progression here, a more refined palate of feeling than anything they've made before, so it’s a very rewarding listen, especially for longtime fans. I believe they deserve to be rewarded for their efforts, at least as much as the rich and famous artists who all get automatic promotion for theirs. You don't have to agree with me to contribute to the well-being of independent artists, to help the average musician who doesn't know what they're doing. But here's my recommendation, even if nothing I've described so far sounds appealing in the slightest - find something else. Find something that has that weird mix of genre tags that you've fantasized about before, find the side project from an artist you have long since forgot about, find your favorite label’s least popular artist. You might just hear something you'll love, someone you'll happily follow for years to come. That's what I did with Hot Tub Boys, and I have never regretted it.