Friday, April 22, 2011

REVIEW: The Raveonettes - Raven in the Grave

The Raveonettes have always sounded both fresh and familiar, an updated swaggering sound that evokes fond personal memories and more generalized feelings of excitement and a hint of danger. The familiar is easy to understand because there is a decided retro feel to the reverb and distortion of the instrumentation and the boy-girl vocals. The freshness derives from the care in production and musicianship, as well as the evident intensity in the delivery.

For me, the world conjured by The Raveonettes' previous albums was the world of warm summer nights and running a Dodge Charger through the 1960s-1970s from town to the waterside bar at the Chain of Lakes (my kids aren't reading this, are they?). The only sure promise was cheap beer and the chance of checking out the other sex. But there was the chance of more--loving, fighting, crashing. Some nights ended happy and some did not, but all ended with stories.

So now we come to the 5th album from Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo, Raven in the Grave. The first single and opening track is "Recharge and Revolt". The beginning is recognizably The Raveonettes, but after the introduction, the synths swell up and provide a carpet of sound to carry the song.

The second track,"War in Heaven" begins with spare instrumentation. When the vocals drop in, they are soft and haunting. Several tracks later in the album take this approach as well. But whether the song is fast or amped up, or slow and soft, the music is enveloping and gorgeous.

The third track, "Forget that You're Young", is worthy of being a single. It has a bit of the bounce of previous work from the band, but feels more restrained and a bit sad:

To my ears, this album continues the magic that is The Raveonettes, but that doesn't mean it is the same. It still is night music, but generally it is slower and darker. It evokes coming home well after midnight, tired and driving slowly while peering though the fog. Or talking with friends about disappointments or opportunities past, friends that didn't make it that far or who might not make it much farther. The generous use of synths, in addition to the characteristic careful guitar work, enhance the somber atmosphere.

"Ignite" is one of my favorite songs on the album:

It isn't that album I thought it would be, but I very much like the album that it is.


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