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Posted on July 15th, 2015 (10:00 am) by Lucy Xiong

Back after five years with their fifth album, Brooklyn’s electronic rock duo, Ratatat, returns to the genre-bending guitar, bass and drum sounds that they originated a decade ago while also evolving it. Magnifique could be the soundtrack to an instrumental film about young love in a city like Paris or New York. It not only keeps your head bobbing but gives you a story with engagingly dynamic and harmonious layers.

The "Intro" sets up a theatrical tone that is satisfied by the rest of the album. "Cream On Chrome" sounds like walking out of work in the evening onto city streets and transitioning into nightlife. The bass goes from stride to strut while the guitar progresses from a lighthearted staccato to a heavier slide turning into an infectiously vibe-y beat. "Magnifique," the title track, is the sonic description of the moment when two people meet while smoking a cigarette outside a bar or party. The dialogue between the drawn out low and high notes describes a successful flirtation that lasts past the cigarette. The sharper percussion in "Abrasive" channels the internal (sometimes external) spazzing of really liking someone — fear and excitement but mostly discomfort that is eventually and somewhat triumphantly accepted in order to return the heart-rate to normal.

"Countach" (classic Ratatat with bass heavy syncopation) and "Drift" (a deviating ballad with a mellow melodic droll) is the lavender phase of the relationship. With the next equally hopeful song, "Pricks of Brightness," I kept waiting for Freddie Mercury to start singing but was still pretty satisfied when he didn’t. "Nightclub Amnesia" invokes the demise of the relationship and is quite the jam. This is perhaps the most experimental track on the album and brings together dance elements with almost orchestral ones that eventually dissolve into like a rock/funk fusion with a house-ish bassline. "Cold Fingers" is resentment from both parties, and "Supreme" sounds like a head-clearing walk or drive. "Rome," another Freddie Mercury-conjuring track, really showcases Ratatat’s aptness for layering guitar and bass in a way where the layers are very much in conversation with each other. It has an impressively full instrumental chorus with excitingly gratifying swells and releases.

According to an article by SPIN, the album was recorded over four years in Jamaica (the country not Queens), Brooklyn and upstate New York. However, "Primetime" seems to be the only song where Jamaica seeps in. The track moves through island and rock infused chords into an ambient wave-like static. Ratatat’s cover of Springwater’s "I Will Return," is perfect closure to an emotional ride. It sounds like the dramatic ballad that would be playing as the characters in this imaginary indie romance film would walk away from each other to after realizing sometimes love is not enough. It’s the song that the characters would also tear up to years down the road when it unexpectedly comes on in the car or in a bar. The floating vocals and hauling beat leaves a sense nostalgia and hope that is both cheesy and sentimental in the best way.

The cinematic LP closes with a buoyant "Outro" that feels like a ta-da and a curtain close. These mechanical and behind the scenes moments are used as a transition throughout the album which makes it feel cohesive without sacrificing the distinct identities of each song. Ratatat succeeds at the art of motley music once again infusing rock, funk and electronic music in a whimsical, emotive and heartening way. Even though Magnifique might seem a bit too cheesy or not innovative enough in some ways, it is a magnificently well-arranged and conceptualized. In addition, it will without a doubt be a great summer soundtrack.

Track List:

  1. Intro
  2. Cream On Chrome
  3. Magnifique
  4. Abrasive
  5. Countach
  6. Drift
  7. Pricks Of Brightness
  8. Nightclub Amnesia
  9. Cold Fingers
  10. Supreme
  11. Rome
  12. Primetime
  13. I Will Return
  14. Outro
Ratatat - Magnifique
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

81 / 100
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