Danish fuzz-pop duo the Raveonettes is back with a brooding and remarkably swooning album, featuring cracked jangling guitars and buzzing but vibrant synths that create a stark and lovely atmosphere. More lush than previous albums, Raven In The Grave uses synth lines instead of the huge washes of distortion and propulsive drums that usually color the band’s work. This is an album that emphasizes texture but without losing the all-important song structure that makes the Raveonettes so compelling. The result is a more introspective, diverse work, spanning post-punk and dream pop, lighthearted and nihilistic. Coupled with a series of expressive lyrics about isolation and the frustration of need, Raven In The Grave is a profoundly sad, pretty album that cuts deep.
This record isn’t as energetic and peppy as previous efforts, but don’t confuse moodiness with lifelessness. A song like “Apparitions” is dark, ominous and nearly oppressive as it combines a palpitating rhythm with reverb-y synths and guitars, coupled with a nearly one-note vocal melody. Then the thing lets loose with squalls of distortion. If you squint your ears it sounds kind of post-punk, but there is more definition here than the average ’80s guitar band. Conversely, “Summer Moon” is heartbreaking-ly gorgeous, with a flanging guitar pattern underpinning a precious duet that evokes a lullaby or a ballad. “This perfect thing is dying,” Sune Rose Wagner sings, which shows the oceans of loss that make the thing so pretty.
The album exists on the fulcrum between widescreen pretty and cavernously pained, the two rarely being mutually exclusive. Songs like “Ignite” might fall too much into the uncomplicated dream pop of contemporaries, but what the Raveonettes has going for it is a miserable streak, pissing on the good feelings that the individual parts of its music—breathy boy/girl harmonies, catchy melodies, guitar lines—could produce.