Observator (2012) ★ ★ ★ 1/2
The new record from Danish duo The Raveonettes, Observator is the voice of the disillusioned youth splashed with Everly Brothers inspired harmonies and an enveloping liberal electronic sound. The experimental structure and deviation from clear pop arrangement lets us sink into the work, tossing and turning in the lyrics and bathing in the resonant cosmic sound. The subject matter articulates troubled thoughts in a seamless story, with a clear mellow take on love, relationships and life which unfortunately loses its compelling edge towards the second half of the album.
Observator begins with a striking opening track ‘Young and Cold’ which is at once both melancholy and lively. In classic Raveonnettes style, the track focuses on loneliness, regret and feeling unloved, with an acoustic guitar overlaying fuzzy electro. The lyrics are poignant: “I get a shiver from broken hearts. I like the sun when it don’t shine. /I make it hard on anyone.” Sune Rose Wagner’s dejected low vocals generate discord among Sharin Foo’s cries above. Following track ‘Observations’ is reminiscent of an electrified Velvet Underground, with subdued vocals, layered sound and consistent percussion. The sincerity of the lyrics is buried under the peaceful harmonious delivery but after a few listens, the meaning becomes more apparent and successfully captures a youthful artistic spirit.
It is easy to get swept away in Observations, the filtered sound and delicate hurt vocals make for perfect background music as well as internal headphone listening. The seamlessness between tracks is a romantic throwback to a time long before digital releases and the reign of singles. It would be interesting to see what sort of music videos come out of this album. ‘Curse the Night’ is one of the most mournful songs on the album, with soft closed vocals and free guitar strumming conveying the torment – this could be about any sort of breakup, ending, ‘night’. Sharin Foo’s fragile delivery makes for an endearing piece: “I cry my day, I travel your sea/I wanted you, you didn’t want me.”
As the album progresses it delves into more anchored work, channelling the likes of the dejected Irish band The Cranberries and possibly even the cheekiness of The Smiths, with a less haziness and distortion. ‘The Enemy’ is strong and spiteful: “I tossed and turn/killing time with myself” with a pop twist in the surging chorus. The twangy guitar solo backed by hippie tambourine evokes a retro sound supported by contemporary poetry in the lyrics. Again, the album becomes less mysterious, in a way, towards the end with the narratives centering around troublesome girls, old lovers and past memories. ‘Sinking with the Sun’ begins with a healthy energy, sounding more like their previous electronic works. 'She Owns The Streets' provides thought-provoking circumstances: “If they catch you and commit me/ they’ll never know what this life is about.”
Observator has quite an existential mood, each song presents a situation acting as a small fragment of life's journey. The dozy vocals appear calm but on further inspection are convicted and compelling. ‘Till the End’ is a suitable ending to the stirring album, one of the most assertive and dramatic tracks, celebrating devotion and commitment. ‘Slow down, don’t go, /for the moment I belong to you’
DEVOTION, DISILLUSIONMENT, ACCEPTANCE, NOSTALGIC, PEACEFUL, TROUBLED…