If you’re the kind of person who reads lots of album reviews, let me tell you what you’re likely to hear from the critics about Danish noise-pop duo The Raveonettes’ new record Observator. They will make the inevitable comparisons to Jesus & Mary Chain and suggest that The Raveonettes aren’t original enough. They are likely to pick apart the music and chide the record for not breaking any new musical ground, and/or chide band for not evolving enough as a band.
My advice to you is: ignore those critics. They are missing the whole point of the record.
The key to understanding the heart behind Observator is context. The album was written while Sune Rose Wagner was trying to dig out from a number of adverse circumstances, including a back injury, clinical depression and substance abuse issues—and a trip to the Los Angeles coast for recovery only ended up aggravating the issues. All of this openly comes out in the songs, which were ultimately recorded inside a week at Sunset Sound Studios.
They say beauty comes from pain—and the end result is that this record is filled with beautiful moments. I was completely drawn in within the first few seconds of the opening track “Young and Cold”—gorgeous Everly Brothers-esque harmonies set against a buzzy guitar and piano. It’s simple, yet filled with pathos—the kind of song that would make you buy the entire record for the one song (if we didn’t live in an era where you can download by the track). The beauty continues into songs like “The Enemy” and “You Hit Me (I’m Down),” but those are just two examples of many incredible, passion-filled melodies and hooks throughout Observator.
Not every song is directly related to the struggles that surrounded it; while you can pick up references to Wagner’s difficulties on songs like “Sinking With the Sun” and “Observations” (“Flowers in the daytime and Lucifer at night / This woman said I’m torn between two lives”), a lot of the album deals with themes of romance and relationship struggles—common ground for The Raveonettes. But where you really hear the emotions being processed is in the music itself. As I hear a gradual move from dark toward light in the track list, I can feel the music as therapy, grappling with pain and trying to move toward healing. It’s raw, honest, dark, and beautiful.
So forget about pulling the songs apart or looking for some evolutionary breakthrough in musical style; that’s not what this record is about. Observator is meant to be experienced, not analyzed. The Raveonettes are inviting us on a journey that is not comfortable, but one that ultimately produces beauty from pain. For that reason, this record may very well be my favorite from The Raveonettes thus far—and possibly my favorite record of the year.