Friday, June 07, 2013

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On Ratatat's first two albums, the duo of Mike Stroud (guitar) and Evan Mast (programming/various instruments) developed a unique sound. Lodged in the sweet spot between hard rock (spiraling dual-guitar leads, crunching beats) and bedroom electronica (squirmy synths and lots of lo-fi invention), they crafted memorable songs with soaring melodies and huge hooks. On LP3 the duo has kept its unique guitar sound and the hooks but made a few subtle changes. They rely more on live drums and percussion throughout, but more important to the feel of the record is the use of a wide range of keyboards like piano, Mellotron, Wurlitzer, and harpsichord. Thanks to this more organic approach and the laid-back nature of many of the songs themselves, LP3 strikes an interesting balance between the late-night jams perfectly suited for driving abandoned city streets they are known for, like "Mirando" and "Shempi" on one hand, and fragile ballads like "Shiller" and "Black Heroes" on the other. It makes for a slightly fuller listening experience, only slightly because past albums weren't exactly one-dimensional, but still more fleshed-out and varied. Certainly the duo has never made a track as sticky sweet and summery as "Bruleé," and Ratatat haven't used acoustic guitars before as they do on the majestic "Mi Viejo." The short tracks (the Spaghetti western-inspired "FlyaCánn" and cute music box melody "Gipsy Threat") that pop up as slightly corny interludes are a nice new touch, too. In the end, though, the record isn't that big a departure. Tracks like the sharp-as-a-sword "Mirando" and "Falcon Jab" would have fit right in on either of their previous albums, and the trademark Ratatat sound overlays the entire record. Instead of changing their sound to accommodate a wider palette of sounds, they wisely chose to incorporate them into their aesthetic. It's an inspired move that will help them keep their old fans and still allow the duo to progress musically.


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