Observatorby The Raveonettes
On their 2012 album Observator, the Raveonettes take a step back from the darkly gloomy, intricately produced sound of 2009's Raven in the Grave for something stripped-down and much more intimate. With the help of longtime mentor Richard Gottehrer, the duo of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo spends a portion of the album taking apart the band's guitar-heavy sound and reassembling it piece by piece, sometimes leaving things out (like the drums in "Young and Cold") and sometimes adding new elements (the hip-hop drum loop on "Curse the Night" or the stately piano in "Observations"). The carefully half-finished-sounding production works to bring out facets of the Raveonettes that are usually easy to overlook, like their often stunning vocal harmonies and the strength of their melodies. The first half of the album is made up of these precisely arranged songs and it provides an interesting sonic departure that only gives more power to the noise pop that makes up the bulk of the second half of Observator. Even those songs have some quirks that the duo's earlier work didn't have, and the noise and fuzz are much more arranged. "You Hit Me (I'm Down)" has a sophisticated yet simple arrangement that sounds like a wonderful combination of their early work and Raven; "She Owns the Street" frames Wagner's poignant vocals with a misty, twangy haze of guitar; and "The Enemy" has a cheesy drum machine pulse that contrasts nicely with the grey wall of guitars and Foo's open-hearted vocal. The songs that are the most straightforward and traditionally Raveonettes-sounding, like the ultra-hooky "Downtown" and "Till the End," benefit from the off-kilter production and arrangements, too. The whole record has the feel of being quickly recorded yet fully thought-out, and it's one of their best albums to date. From starting out as almost a novelty act, the Raveonettes have grown into a band that constantly surprises listeners and takes chances that almost always pay off, while still retaining a core sound that is unmistakably theirs alone. Plus, as Observator proves again and again, they write really, really good moody pop songs. The record may not be their masterpiece, but it is an important piece of a surprisingly strong career.
- Release Date:
- Vice Records
Performance CreditsRaveonettes Primary Artist
Sharin Foo Group Member
Sune Rose Wagner Group Member
Technical CreditsRichard Gottehrer Producer
Sharin Foo Producer
Sune Rose Wagner Composer,Producer,Engineer
Scott Cohen Management
Alonzo Vargas Engineer
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It's a shame that The Raveonettes aren't as well known as they should be. They started out being a noise pop band in a Jesus And Mary Chain vein with a leaning towards Fifties-style romanticism and melodicism. They haven't completely steered away from that formula and they've been together for well over a decade. Their output has also been consistently good, even when they do the occassional EPs, such as a collection of Christmas songs (!) and "Into The Night", which they did just a few months ago. "Observator" could very well be their catchiest and most hypnotic recording. One of the reasons for that is because the group is stripped down to just Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo, who play all the instruments. Another reason is because of their on-again, off-again collaborations with producer Richard Gottherer, who wrote and produced girl groups in the 1960's and later, The Go-Go's. On "Observator", The Raveonettes' influences are all over the place and it's obvious from the opening tune, "Young And Cold". With its desolate piano and barely-there guitar feedback, it has the tunefulness of The Everly Brothers with the rootsiness of Jack White's "Blunderbuss". There are even hip-hop rhythms that crop up as well as occasional Sonic Youth-style feedback. And the group can't resist doing a yearning, girl group throwback with "She Owns The Streets". Compared to the almost overpowering gloominess of last year's "Raven In The Grave", "Observator" holds your attention from the beginning to the end. Don't let the blurry, black-and-white cover photo throw you off. The Raveonettes' sound (and intentions) are clear as a bell. They're not too many performers you can say that about today.