Friday, April 8, 2011

Album Review: The Raveonettes - Raven in the Grave

Music from Denmark, and the Nordic region in general (especially Sweden), has found its way into American ears for a good while now. The Raveonettes are Danish-bred but American-based, emblemizing the marriage of snowy Europe with rainy New York, as their music tends to feel slick and watery. Every two years since their debut album in 2003, The Raveonettes have been releasing new material and Raven in the Grave is their fifth studio album. The cool, hip, Jesus and Mary Chain sound for which they are known is still in wonderful shape on this record, as the pair continues to put their bountiful supply of guitar pedals to good use.

Some absolutely magical tracks appear on Raven in the Grave, a pretty apt title for the visuals they induce, though perhaps misleadingly dark. Even though they've nailed that '80s-goth vibe, some of the songs are actually sunshiney. One of the more unique aspects to The Raveonettes is that they're able to combine uplifting melodies with an eerie, Joy Division-esque musicality. Songs like "War in Heaven" and "Forget That You're Young" are swoon-worthy, as synths and guitars play to Sharin Foo's tender, whispery voice. We never lose our grip on the melody, or the two-part vocal harmonies for which the duo is also known. Even within the density of the fuzz, and even when the song spirals in on itself, we still return to the two singers and the well-balanced instruments they man.

A few songs fall a little flat for me, being too dainty and lullaby-esque, to the point of being boring. But the majority of the nine songs on Raven are so elegant, rich and whimsical that it (more or less) makes up for those few I found less interesting. "Apparitions" swirls and glides like the ghosts for which it's named. Beautiful and perhaps the most emotive (mostly due to Sune Rose Wagner's somewhat torturous vocals, and an explosion of sounds that almost swallows the bassline), I could listen to this song for far longer than its current four minutes. "Ignite Revised" feels beachy in tone and melody; maybe evoking a mystic night at the sea underneath a glowing moon. "Evil Seeds" takes us right to the grave of the album's title, building a fierce drumbeat between stark moments where the vocals stand nearly bare. Another favorite, this track feels like both a leather whip and a silky curtain, bridging the gap between dangerous and gentle.

I only wish the album ended with "Evil Seeds" rather than "My Time's Up," which goes back to the "too delicate" sound I mentioned before. The Raveonettes are at their strongest when they turn up the amps and push down the pedals, rather than tiptoeing their way through lyrics. Still, the album affirms that the band is creating their own definition of the shoe-gazey post-punk they adore, and Raven also proves that they still have a lot to offer and explore.

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