Ratatat has been around for a while now, establishing themselves as alternative/electronic rock staples and household names. Band members Mike Stroud and Evan Mast know what they're doing, and we know what they're doing. Their new album Magnifique, released on July 17th and featuring fourteen tracks, is another stop on this long road of theirs, both different from anything they have done previously yet very clearly their own. It is gentler than their previous albums, but still armed to the tooth with glassy crispness and catchy beats.
"Cream On Chrome" is one of the more adrenaline-pumping songs on the album and is also very much a classic Ratatat track, recognizable as theirs to even the most casual listener. It's incredibly catchy; there is no question as to why it was made a single. The smooth, slippery growl of the guitar creates a melody well worth dancing to, and the song gets progressively more intense, building toward a gradual yet intoxicating madness of sound upon which the song ends.
Throughout the rest of the album, Ratatat shows the versatility that their signature instrumentals can inhabit. "Nightclub Amnesia" is even more energetic than "Cream On Chrome", sounding more like rock 'n roll than anything else on the album with its heavy usage of electric guitar, muted hi-hats, and clapping beats. but "Countach" is a shivering, crystallized, caffeinated mass of a song.
However, the band covers a wide emotional spectrum. "Drift" is, as its title suggests, a dreamy, slightly beachy track, very still and quiet. Supreme is equally dreamy, but a gorgeous, lilting melody, one that somehow evokes bittersweet nostalgia. And, of course, one can't go without mentioning their powerful, bluesy cover of the Springwater song "I Will Return".
Though the album is audibly cohesive, with one song flowing easily into the next until they become one blindingly bright string of minimalistic drums, murmuring synths, and rolling guitar chords - but perhaps it is too cohesive. As individual tracks, I found that each song has its own power, but together they lost much of that emotional force. Perhaps it is because Ratatat is so good at what they do that I felt this way. The album was airtight, leaving some room for progression but not much for evolution. The album is different from their past work, of course, but I was unsure if they were reaching new heights with it, rather than just repackaging old ones.
Nevertheless, this album represents Ratatat's new, slightly softer approach to their music. They have pared down their work to let the bones shine through, and their album is crisp and seamless. These men are masters at their craft, and Magnifique is clear proof of that.