Digital Distortion Moves to the Pacific With Raveonettes’ New Album Pe’ahi

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There is an odd sense of déjà vu in listening to the latest Raveonettes album.  Pe’ahi is not a carbon copy of its predecessors, nor is it a lazy rehashing of song structure and lyrics.  Rather, this album feels like the next natural step in the Danish noise-pop band’s musical evolution; so natural that it borders on inevitable.

If nothing else, The Raveonettes are one of the most consistent and consistently developing bands on the block.  The Danish noise-pop duo has released a new album every other year since 2003, and has managed that feat so elusive to many bands:  evolving in their sound while remaining true to their key musical elements.  Their overarching sound could be described as a cross between 60s girl bands and 80s shoegaze with a heady dose of white noise.  Key elements to their style include close, two part boy-girl harmonies, dark lyrics, and a cinematic vibe all wrapped up in that comforting blanket of fuzz.   Pe’ahi keeps all these vital components but shifts towards a more lush, hypnotic sound, with a broader variety of noises and beats.  It keeps the 60s influence, but shifts away from girl bands and towards surf rock.

Named for a spot in Maui known for its big wave surfing break, Pe’ahi is a decidedly beachy album. Expanding on The Raveonnettes’ love for America and sunshine, Pe’ahi heavily utilizes the wet guitar reverb so quintessential to surf rock. Perhaps it is related to their roots in cold weather Copenhagen, but the Raveonettes have a real knack for writing odes to warm American locales (most transparently, “Ode to LA” from their 2005 album Pretty in Black.) This album is the west coast fraternal twin to 2012’s Observator, a 31-minute exploration of the particular sadness of New York City. Pe’ahi maintains this moodiness in its lyrics and melancholic compositions of its melodies, yet, the sound is more wistful than alienated. By moving their metropolitan inspiration from New York to Los Angeles, the Raveonettes give themselves space to explore Pacific inspired songs. Individual tracks are simultaneously breezy and moody, odes to the skaters of Los Angeles and lost love.

Listen: “Endless Sleeper”

Recurring in themes in the Raveonettes albums preceding Pe’ahi include lust, heartbreak, self-destruction, and drugs. Pe’ahi throws familial issues into the mix.  The alcoholism and infidelity of the ghostly father figure who appears throughout the album lends a haunting tone to many songs. Sune Rose Wagner’s father died of alcohol induced causes the December before this album was released, and songs explore his troubling influence in both life and death.  In “Kill!” the story of a disquieting relationship with an absent father, the singers intone “I never met my dad in a lovely dream/ Smiling in the moonless night.”  The object of the ending song “Summer Ends,” is left purposefully ambiguous: it could be Wagner’s father or it could be a lover whose departure mirrors that of the father.  Notably lacking in the masculine posturing so common to musical groups, anger is largely internalized, with narrators that are acutely aware of their own possibly inherited flaws. Fear of abandonment pervades the relationship between subject and object.  Sharin Foo and Sune Rose Wagner gently ask, “Are you gonna leave me, are you now?” and make the harsher declaration “Never gonna see you again,” in “Kill!”

These complex narrators are paired with increasingly ornate and layered sound experimentation.  In their early albums, The Raveonettes were almost aggressively simple, writing albums all in one key.  Now, they play with harps, choirs and more, collaborating with film composer Joe Trapaneze in “Wake Me Up” and even the excluding drums in the explosive “When Night is Almost Done.”

There is no radical departure from the sound so unique to The Raveonettes, rather, there is a gratifying step forward, even if it causes one to feel a vague sense of nostalgia for the simplicity that once dominated the tracks.  Longtime fans will find a satisfying and substantial addition to the band’s discography and new ones will enjoy the fun, fuzzy, and forlorn songs that The Raveonettes have been quietly releasing for the past decade.

Get a free download of The Raveonettes’ song “Sisters”!

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Charlotte Raskovich is a third year at University of Virginia, majoring in Media Studies with a concentration in Film. She is the Humor Editor of the Cavalier Daily and Co-Video Manager for the sketch comedy group, La Petite Teet.