reviewed by Michael Thomas
There’s something remarkably human about Raveen’s debut album, despite the intensely dreamlike atmosphere the trio treads. Call it pop, R&B, experimental, whatever you want, but at the end of the day, Raveen have tapped into some kind of collective unconscious with Always.
From the moment the dreamlike piano begins the album with the title track to the string-filled finale of “Begin,” Raveen glide effortlessly between hook-filled choruses and more experimental breaks in the music, and both feel like equally valid parts of the band’s identity. Always is reminiscent of Radiohead’s In Rainbows in its complexity (and I don’t make this comparison lightly; that album changed my goddamn life) and calls to human nature.
I won’t stay on this Radiohead comparison too long, but you can hear in “Always” the same kind of steadfast love evident in In Rainbow‘s “All I Need.” Though the beautiful piano and chorus of voices make Raveen’s song more angelic, by the end of the song Eric Seguin is making clear the same kind of commitment Thom Yorke sings about.
Radiohead similarities aside, each song is its own puzzle box unlocked over multiple listens. The complex arrangements are a treat right off the bat, but active listening will help you absorb the sonic richness and Seguin’s cryptic lyrics. “What You’re Looking For,” one of the album’s best songs, begins subtly and perhaps even angrily in its sound and lyrical content. But as the song moves on, the chorus becomes richer with swells of synths as Seguin sings “You called out the old ones.” Is there a touch of magic?
Speaking of choruses, “400 Years” also has a catchy one. The jazzy song about waiting really turns up the anguish in the chorus, and the song eventually morphs into something new by the end. The sloshing water sounds in the background brings to mind the image of someone standing alone on an island and singing into the ocean. “How Does It Feel” is even more pointed. With a gorgeous blend of keys, bass and drums backing him, Seguin tears himself apart lyrically before singing the most venomous two lines of the album: “How does it feel to be right all the time?” There’s a pause, and then he adds, quieter in contrast, “Must be nice.”
Though these complex songs are thrilling, Raveen also show they’ve got a lot of power in simpler numbers. “To the Bone” is rich in imagery and doesn’t need a lot of instruments to back up the sentiment; a sustained note on the keys is only heard at first, before the five-piece string section comes in later. It’s short and sweet and just as effective.
There’s nothing quite as emotionally soothing and devastating as this album right now.
Top Tracks: “What You’re Looking For”; “To the Bone”; “How Does It Feel”
Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) +*swoop*