New Music Reviews: Sleepy Sun and Ratatat

Reviews of the new Sleepy Sun and Ratatat albums below.  Back on schedule next week, I promise.

++ = highly recommended

+ = recommended

+/- = recommended with reservations

– = not recommended

Sleepy Sun – Fever

I’m not a hippie, I swear, but it seems like I can’t make it through a full week without writing some variation of the word “psychedelic” for this blog. Sleepy Sun is going to make sure I keep up the trend. This is psychedelic rock – there’s no getting around that. The band has one of the most appropriate names I’ve ever heard. Fever contains hazy, laid back rock that sounds best suited for warm weather and clouds of smoke. You can almost smell the incense.

Opener “Marina” sets the pace and moves through a few different sections that act as a nice summary for the rest of the album. There’s the big, lethargic guitar that opens the track; the dreamy keyboards and swapped male/female vocals that occupy the middle; the almost tribal percussion on the bridge; and, finally, more sky-reaching guitar to close things out. Had they just thrown in some acoustic parts, they would have covered the entire breadth of the album in six and a half minutes.

The rest of the album flows smoothly from there, with the folkier tracks coexisting peacefully alongside the ones that indulge in electric guitar-worship (because what are hippies if not peaceful?). The longer songs tend to fare better – short tracks like “Acid Love” and “Freedom Line” come across as glorified transitions, while “Desert God” and “Sandstorm Woman” use their longer runtimes to make something that sounds truly expansive. Turn ’em up and zone out. (+)

Ratatat – LP4

It’s all in the titles. Ratatat appear to have given up trying to expand their sound around the same time they decided to stop coming up with actual album titles. LP3 was a better, more consistent listen than Classics, but it didn’t break any new ground for the duo. It was a good album, but it was more of the same – dance music for the indie kids, with cool guitar leads and nods to funk and hip hop and tropicalia. If you go into LP4 expecting something else, you’re going to be disappointed. It was apparently even recorded at the same time as LP3. Unfortunately, it appears there was one album’s worth of good material produced in those sessions. There’s nothing here that’s as good as “Shiller” or “Shempi” or “Brulée,” and even the high points would have seemed like filler on the LP3.

Honestly, Ratatat isn’t much of an album band anyway. They would probably be better served focusing on singles and remix work. Tracks like “Neckbrace” and “Alps” would make solid 12” singles, and their rap mixtapes are easily the best thing they’ve ever done. The album format just isn’t their friend. It dulls the pleasures that can be had from their songs by repeating the same basic combination of elements 12 times to diminishing returns. I sometimes felt in the past like the tastemakers had unfairly turned a cold shoulder on Ratatat, who really aren’t doing things that much differently than they were on their well-liked first album. At this point, though, they’re just spinning their wheels, and that’s hard to defend. (-)

  1. September 27th, 2010

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