The Raveonettes have pretty much stayed in the same lane for their entire career, only making occasional sonic tweaks to their beloved sonic palette. The fuzz of shoegaze has never grown old to them, and there’s more than likely a few worn copies of the C86 tape and the Jesus and Mary Chain discography kicking around the homes of singer/guitarist Sune Rose Wagner and singer/bassist Sharin Foo. There’s something to be said about expert craftsmen though, individuals who lock into one form or trade and do it to its absolute death at a high skill level. The Raveonettes’ sixth album, Observator, solidly places them in this class. It brings hardly anything new besides a further cleaning up of their sound, but it’s just done so damn well.
That Observator was born and recorded under a period of high duress for Wagner (bouncing from coast to coast, suffering a heavy back injury, various dalliances with depression and illicit substances) makes its effortless sound that much more impressive. Where 2011’s Raven In The Grave saw the Raves dabbling in more overtly goth-inspired sounds to a more muted public response, Observator acts as a snap back to routine (even going as far as bringing back Pretty In Black producer Richard Gottehrer), its cleaner production and injection of emotions beyond their signature smokey cool serving as an enhancement on what they’ve done before. Wagner has said that Observator is mostly an album of unrequited love songs, and it shows: from Foo’s resigned sighs of “I’m the enemy,” on, “The Enemy,” to the bursting-heart race to the finish of the Wagner-sung closing track “Till The End,” (the Raveonettes, are, if anything, efficient song titlers), it’s jam-packed full of stomach-punch songs of beauty and internalized longing.
Expert sequencing also has a lot to do with Observator‘s success. Things start off slowly with the twangy, piano-accentuated “Young and Cold,” a harmonized duet between Foo and Wagner that rests on a thick layer of guitar-conjured fuzz. “Observations” and “Curse The Night” temporarily plunge the album back into dark waters. From there on, it’s almost like someone slowly pressing down on the gas pedal of car. Song tempos get quicker, major keys begin to dominate, and the hooks, the hooks just pile up on top of one another at a giddily quick rate, until the aforementioned sprint of “Till The End” slams the thing to a stop.
Of course, being extremely proficient at one thing does have its drawbacks, in this case being Observator‘s monochromatic nature. You’d be forgiven to not have the hooks of these songs stuck in your head, or worse, confusing them for some other band. Songs like “Downtown” and “Curse The Night” feel doomed to sink forgotten into the Raveonettes canon, or overshadowed by similar songs from elsewhere in their discography. Ignoring this, you have another quality catalog entry from one of modern indie rock’s somewhat more surprising career bands.