I’m not even going to attempt to hide the fact that I’m a fan of The Raveonettes- they have yet to make a ‘bad’ album, or even an album that wasn’t at least great. Thankfully, this streak is continuing.
Observator, the Copenhagen duo’s newest release, is a stylistic progression of their previous effort, 2011s Raven In The Grave and the Into The Night EP from earlier this year, which are far darker than the bands early work. The first thing that hits straightaway is the newfound use of piano and keyboards- while it doesn’t retract anything from the music, it’s a little unusual in comparison to the usual fuzzed-out guitars and drums that make up the vast majority of The Raveonettes’ back catalogue. Tracks like first single ‘Observations’ showcase this blend perfectly- a continual piano rhythm acts almost as an anchor, with reverb-flecked guitar and out-of-focus keyboards shift around.
By contrast, ‘Curse The Night’ is back-to-basics, with its warped Everly Brothers-esque harmony vocal behind a very minimal instrumental setup- it could easily fit on Raven In The Grave, or even Lust Lust Lust for that matter. Of course, this is not a bad thing, by any means.
There’s still an icy detachment in the music- particularly in the vocals- similar to the previous album, which adds an entire different atmosphere to the songs- ‘Sinking With The Sun’, a washed-out mini-masterpiece that balances the sun-drenched shimmer of 2005’s Pretty In Black and their current distorted and claustrophobic sound- on paper, it shouldn’t work, but it does.
2nd single ‘She Owns The Streets’ and ‘Downtown’ have more hints of the bands’ past- surf guitars cross with minimal yet catchy beats, complete with their trademark swirling inter-gender vocal harmonies. ‘Downtown’ in particular shines through- especially during the extended instrumental section midway through.
There’s times when the abstract fuzziness and static begins to drain a little- ‘You Hit Me (I’m Down)’ borders on tedious, with a loping tempo and slightly country-style acoustic guitar, but while not a bad song itself, it feels unnecessary on the album.
Last song, ‘Till The End’ feels like it should accompany ending credits rolling on a movie- garage rock with an accelerator pedal. A pretty good way to end a pretty good album.
My main gripe with this record is its length- 9 songs, clocking in at a shade over half an hour- it feels even shorter. While Raven In The Grave contained 9, the songs were longer, or at least felt longer- different tempos, musical styles etc. Observator feels closer to The Raveonettes first long-player, or even the Whip It On EP. But again, this isn’t really a bad thing- in fact, if the album were longer, it would be dragging, and if there is one thing that The Raveonettes’ music does not do, it is drag. In short, it’s a pretty even mixture between the darkness of their recent work, and the quickness of the first couple of releases.
Overall, yet another very strong offering from the stylish Danish duo, and shows that even after 10 years, there’s still no stopping them.
If you’re after a copy, try here.
Key songs: ‘Curse The Night’, ‘Sinking With The Sun’, ‘She Owns The Streets’