Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Hot Hot Heat's version of indie-rock is so sugar-glazed that it often falls outside any reasonable definition of the genre: "Let Me In," the first single from Happiness Ltd., is so massively radio-ready, it nearly reaches total facelessness. But because the Canadian band keeps one foot in the indie ghetto—it still recalls The Walkmen, among others, on occasion—it never falls headfirst into the pop abyss. It's telling, though, that the best song on Happiness is a re-recorded "5 Times Out Of 100," which originally appeared on the band's debut Sub Pop EP. Along with the charging, piano-led "My Best Fiend," it lends a bit of danger to a set that sorely needs it: Soupy ballads (like the egregious "Outta Heart") and straight-ahead pop songs ("Good Day To Die") feel like labored, borderline-dishonest attempts to broaden a scope that might be better left narrow.


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