The career arc of the Canadian four-piece Hot Hot Heat is at times neatly constructed and at others quite peculiar. In regards to the former, the band was formed in 1999, released five albums between 2002 and 2016 and is now closing up shop with a new self-titled LP. It doesn't get much tidier than that without a bow on top. But in addressing the latter point, Hot Hot Heat has been anything but conventional. They started as a hardcore act and are now categorized as anything from art punk to alt pop. Their lineup has fluctuated quite a bit, with only vocalist Steve Bays and drummer Paul Hawley remaining from the group's initial formation, and the band virtually disappeared for most of the 2010s after releasing Future Breed. But by taking their history into their own hands and finishing with their best foot forward, Hot Hot Heat look content to go out on top.

The band may have been gone for much of the last six years, but any fears of rust are wiped away immediately by the lovelorn opener and lead single 'Kid Who Stays In The Picture.' Bassist Louis Hearns and Hawley carry a formidable groove while Luke Paquin's guitars give the song a little crunch. The rest is left in Bays' capable hands. His buoyant keys gave the song a wistful core, with his voice carrying that sense of longing to a new height. "It could have been you," he sings with unblemished sincerity, "It should have been you."

Most of the album's tracks deal with concerns of the heart, and usually not happy ones. "You're the same little girl that I recognize," Bays coos over a taut beat on album highlight 'Pulling Levers', "but someone has been pulling levers behind those eyes." Grandiose choruses, horn flourishes and heartbreak litter this whole project, all of them deployed with effortless, deft skill.

Those expecting a return to the frenetic punkier side of Hot Hot Heat that earned them such rave reviews on their 2002 debut, Make Up The Breakdown, may be slightly disappointed. This LP is grounded in pop sensibilities and, given that the album is the product of six years worth of work from the band, this has to have been the aim. There are moments when their roots peek through, such as on 'Sad Sad Situation,' but this record feels more like a well thought through progression and career finisher than an attempt to indulge in nostalgia.

Hot Hot Heat went through a tough stretch of critical derision after starting their career strong. With this tightly constructed examination of the things that we all tend to indulge in most -- endless "what if?" situations in the game of love being chief among these -- Hot Hot Heat seem poised to go out higher than they've ever been before. It may not have been the most effortless ride, but this is a band that seems to know it is better to go out on a high note rather than fizzle into obscurity.