Pinning down Ratatat to just one genre of music is somewhat tricky – they mix a medley of styles into a rather unique sound. Famously lyric-less, the duo from New York are known for combining electronica with fuzzed guitars, backing all manners of musical miscellanea. Distilling Ratatat to an easily identifiable sound might be seen as implying a lack of innovation in their music. Admittedly, however, it’s worked for them so far – and there’s a world between the edgy, provocative Loud Pipes from their 2006 album Classics and the bittersweet romance of Mahalo from 2010’s LP4.
As expected, then, their latest offering, Magnifique, contains varying applications of the formula. From the languid, dream-like Drift to the crunchy, upbeat Nightclub Amnesia, each song has its own character. Yet it may well be that the possibilities of the formula are simply running dry – although there aren’t any bad songs on the album, nothing really stands out either. Having often been trotted out by the duo’s detractors, this is hardly a new criticism. Yet if it were appropriate at any point in their career, then it’ll be after Magnifique. After a week’s listening, only half of a song has struck me to the same extent as Loud Pipes or Wildcat from Classics – the last half of Rome, with its gentle crescendo into the almost nostalgic happiness of the climax, is my personal highlight of the album.
But average Ratatat is still good music – and Magnifique continues the tradition of providing an array of music for various moods. There’s a reason for this tradition, and for the similarities visible throughout the discography – Ratatat create music that they want to listen to. This is clear from their notations of the songs on Magnifique – Pricks of Brightness, for example, is a love letter to the music they enjoyed as teenagers.
Perhaps the main point to take away from Ratatat’s latest offering is that, for many people, it’ll be best as a side to the main course. So many of these songs will add vibrancy to parties, drives, or even to simple walks around town – yet the emotional connection is lacking, and few (if any) songs carry sufficient weight to stand alone. While the songs aren’t likely to create memories on their own, they could well find themselves the backing track to many a #Summer_Memories_2k15 montage.
Not quite living up to its name, Magnifique is nonetheless an appreciated return from a half-decade absence – the only regret being that it doesn’t quite reach the bar that previous albums have set.