RELEASE
April 05, 2011
LABEL
Vice Records

Album Review

After two great albums that redefined and nearly perfected their noisy girl group and razorblades wall of sound, the Raveonettes switch things up on their fifth album, Raven in the Grave. In keeping with the title, the album trades out the fizzy, candy-sweet element of their songs and sound for something darker and gloomier. Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo took over the production themselves, and more than building a sound, built a lingering mood of melancholy and sadness that pervades the entire album. It’s not a forbidding or cold sound since the duo still has melodies so hooky that even a blanket of gray mist can’t cover them up. The arrangements are more enveloping than usual, with the fuzzy walls of guitars replaced by waves of synths on most of the songs. There are still plenty of guitars on the record but they are less prominent and Wagner takes more care to fit lines and parts together rather than just stacking them together. It’s an approach that could have failed and sucked the energy and fire out of the group -- somehow they sound even more alive and emotional. The uptempo songs sound ferocious: "Recharge & Revolt" rides a galloping beat and an impassioned Wagner vocal over waves of guitar and synth; "Evil Seeds" has a pummeling beat and quite effective loud/quiet dynamics. Both songs dispense with traditional choruses and build their hooks out of repetition and dramatic chord changes. "Ignite," though, is more traditionally Raveonettes with a singalong chorus and pretty vocal harmonies from Wagner and Foo. Most of the record is made up of very effective midtempo ballads that cut the sonic firepower and ramp up the emotion. On these songs, Foo’s vocals are the most haunting she’s sung yet, the synths and guitars blend seamlessly, and the mood reaches out to hold you like a giant warm blanket. Sometimes sounding like the band at a haunted prom ("My Time’s Up"), sometimes like they're playing slow dances at a vampire wedding ("Let Me on Out"), there is a fragile beauty and honesty to the songs that the band has never quite delivered before. Even the one song that verges on clichéd overkill ("Apparitions") saves itself by being as musically desolate as the tortured words. So many times when a band makes a dramatic departure in sound, you can trace it back to commercial concerns or a wild flailing born of desperation. Here the choices and changes the Raveonettes make feel completely organic and like a progression more than a departure. It’s almost like they had this record in them all along -- they just needed to slow down and dig a little deeper to find it. Raven in the Grave may not be what you expected going in, but by the time it’s through the powerful emotions transmitted through the words, voices, and sound will win you over completely.
Tim Sendra, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Recharge & Revolt
  2. War in Heaven
  3. Forget That You're Young
  4. Apparitions
  5. Summer Moon
  6. Let Me on Out
  7. Ignite
  8. Evil Seeds
  9. My Time's Up