Album Review: “Magnifique” by Ratatat

Ratatat Magnifique

Magnifique
Released: July 17th, 2015
Reviewed by Erik Wermuth
Rating: 4/5

Brief disclaimer: ever since I first heard their self-titled album in 2007, Ratatat have been my favorite band, bar none. At that point I had heard electronic acts with something approaching Evan Mast and Mike Stroud’s ear for subtle build-up and original melodies, but never combined with the excitement that live instrumentation brings. Guitar and bass took the place of vocals and removed any distraction from the New York pair’s contribution to rock and electronic. More so than any review I could write, this one is from the perspective of a fanboy. I’ve done my best to temper my natural inclination to think that they can do no wrong, but nobody’s perfect (despite my instinct that, musically at least, these two are about as close as it gets).

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that back in 2011 when Ratatat announced they were beginning work on their fifth studio album, I was more than excited. News of an upcoming release would have been enough to send me skipping back and forth down my hallway with childish glee (not really), but every website announcing the album, tentatively referred to as LP5 after their last two albums LP3 and LP4, also included another nugget: the duo had secluded themselves in a beach house studio on Long Island to write and record.

With their unkempt hair, lack of vocals, and generally secretive attitude, they had always presented themselves as something like basement guitar gurus: cloistered monks of the electronic world. The news that they were holing up in a personal studio to work their obscure magic fit so perfectly with this narrative that I was utterly enthralled by imagining the process. As year after year passed and no further updates were forthcoming, the mystery only became more compelling. When at a certain point the wait for LP5 became something of a joke, like the endless wait for a new Duke Nukem and the internet even started to doubt its existence, I could only wait and picture a wide shot of the studio at night, with strange lights flashing through the windows and the cracks in the doors like a mystic laboratory.

When the news finally dropped that the album was coming, along with a name, its first single and the beginnings of a tour schedule, I went skipping back and forth down my hallway with childish glee (really). With such a huge 4 year buildup, nothing short of excellence would have sufficed and, for the most part, Magnifique delivers on that promise. The whole album bursts with the same energy that Ratatat have been bringing since 2004, and I absolutely can’t wait to see them live again with this album in the rotation.

Because of their flowing, instrumental style, I find that Ratatat is best listened to in terms of albums rather than individual songs, so I won’t give my usual track-by-track analysis. In Magnifique, Stroud and Mast confirmed their status as the modern American answers to Johann Sebastian Bach by perfecting a similar mathematical, theme-building style. In terms of their previous work, Magnifique sounds the most like their more standard first two albums Ratatat and Classics. However, some of the more involved production (particularly in the places where the album speeds up) evokes their more experimental LP3 and much of the slide-guitar work (particularly in the places where the album slows down) feels very much like the equally experimental LP4.

Most of all, Magnifique seems to be a combination of the lessons Stroud and Mast learned in making LP3/LP4 (the majority of which were recorded in the same studio session) and their more ‘standard’ sound present in Ratatat and Classics. To some, this kind of musical consolidation is the signal of a weaker effort, but this album feels more like a new apex and a necessary step than a simple rehashing of old ideas. The question of whether or not the duo have run out of creative juice after this effort is still up in the air, but considering the scope of Evan Mast’s many side projects (the sweet, downtempo e*vax and the exotic Abuela for instance), I find it hard to believe that’s possible. Nothing would make me happier than an experimental series LP6/LP7 followed by another consolidation of creative effort. We can only hope it takes less of a decade this time around.

In the end, if you’ve listened to Ratatat previously, Magnifique is only going to solidify your opinion of them, whatever that may be. If you’re new to the pair, the all-encompassing Magnifique just might be the perfect place to start. As a past, present, and future fan I give it a satisfied 4/5.

Happy Thanksgiving 2013!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner…and it’s a perfect time to remember to be grateful for all the good things in life. (And to eat!). Here are some albums that our Murfie staffers are grateful for as the holiday approaches.

Name: John
Thanksgiving plans: I think I’m going to go chill with my grandma. Not entirely sure yet.
Album I’m thankful for: I’m thankful for Ambient 1 by Brian Eno. This was one of the first albums that introduced me to ambient, experimental and avant-garde music, and it really introduced me to a ton of amazing and artistically satisfying music and people in my life.

Name: Daniella
Thanksgiving plans: Every year my family drives Up North and we have a big bonfire, eat tons of food, and take lots of naps.
Album I’m thankful for: Teaser and the Firecat by Cat Stevens.

Name: Marc
Thanksgiving plans: None in particular, although I imagine I’ll cook food :)
Album I’m thankful for: My Early Burglary Years by Morrissey – Not necessarily the best collection of his you can buy, but it does pack in several of my favorite Morrissey tracks.

Name: Leah
Thanksgiving plans: Headed home to a cozy family Thanksgiving at my aunt and uncle’s place in Chicago (fireplace, comfy couch, great conversation) and spending quality time together at our family’s restaurant.
Album I’m thankful for: The Life Pursuit by Belle & Sebastian – this album was my first foray into the always-fun Belle & Sebastian, and as I dug back through their earlier stuff I found many of what are now my go-to tunes when I’m feeling down or stressed-out.

Name: Adam
Thanksgiving plans: Spending quality time with my beloved family in Minnesota. Eating ridiculous amounts of food and watching football. Maybe looking through Black Friday ads.
Album I’m thankful for: Classics by Ratatat. It’s one of the first albums I can remember that made me think, “Hmmmm, music doesn’t always need lyrics to paint a picture.” And for that I’m thankful.

Name: Gao
Thanksgiving plans: Watching the Packers destroy the Lions with my boyfriend’s family.
Album I’m thankful for: Backstreet Boys’ self-titled album. The sappy love songs always cheer me up. Plus, I’ve perfected the reach and grab move.

Name: Zach
Thanksgiving plans: Going up north to my grandparents house for good food and spirits.
Album I’m thankful for: Amelie (Soundtrack) by Yann Tiersen.

Name: Elsa
Thanksgiving plans: Going to a family friend’s farm in Monroe, WI for a big potluck dinner.
Album I’m thankful for: #1 Record by Big Star (1972). The quintessential power pop album, from a band that only became semi-known decades after their demise. This one is particularly special because it has the original lineup of the band, with the songwriting team of Alex Chilton & Chris Bell, both truly gifted singer/guitarists who deserved a lot more recognition than they received. You can hear the album’s influence in a lot of indie rock groups that came out of the ’80s and ’90s.

Name: Matt
Thanksgiving plans: Thanksgiving day for football watching and turkey #1 with the in-laws, and Thanksgiving night for turkey #2 with my family. I’ll have to pace myself :)
Album I’m thankful for: Moving Up, Living Down by Eric Hutchinson. I’m thankful for having discovered Eric during his live show in Madison over the summer. He’s a terrific performer, and every track on his latest album is terrific, fun listening.

Name: Tyler
Thanksgiving plans: Eat, eat…and eat! And of course, watch the Packers. Go Pack Go!
Album I’m thankful for: I’m really digging the new Avicii album True. I’ll have a fun time listening to it with my brothers when they are in town for Thanksgiving.

Name: Kayla
Thanksgiving plans: Visiting my friends in Milwaukee and eating at my parents’ house (word on the street is my mom’s making gluten free pumpkin cheesecake…yummm).
Album I’m thankful for: Is This It by the Strokes. For some reason I feel like my life would not be the same if I never discovered this album in particular. The lyrics, melodies, hooks, and layered instruments really speak to me. And I luuurrve Julian Casablancas :)

What album are you thankful for this year? Let us know in the comments!

Happy Thanksgiving from the crew at Murfie!

Get to Know a Murfie Staffer!

One of the best things about Murfie is most definitely the people who work here! Anyone who has ever wrote in to support or contacted us directly via e-mail will know that we have some real cool cats running this site.

We thought it would be great to share some info about our staffers, so that you can get to know us a bit more! Round one: Introducing—

TYLER STUBBE

7a56ea3c-cd60-11e2-9a4e-a77c4bda53ceWhere are you from? > Originally Cedar Falls, IA, but I have been in Madison, WI for the past 18 years.

How long have you been working at Murfie? What is your role? > From the beginning! Hired Nov. 2010. I manage Murfie Operations and contribute to marketing, advertising and customer acquisition.

What do you like about working at Murfie? > Building an awesome product and service. It has been exciting seeing the company evolve to where it is now. Murfie provides an environment to learn something new every day. And, of course, the staff. I love coming to the office to work with such a creative, smart, and diverse group of coworkers. It really is a Murfie family.
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What kind of music can be found in your Murfie collection? > Oh boy, I have everything—some that I’ve purchased and love, and some that have been accumulated through the years that I’d prefer not to have ;) To name a few: Citizen Cope, Ratatat, Mumford & Sons, The Wallflowers, Jimmy Buffett, DMB, Bing Crosby, Allman Brothers, Kid Cudi, Miike Snow, The Killers.
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Who are your favorite artists/bands of all time? > Citizen Cope, Mumford & Sons, and The Killers.

If you could have coffee with any musician, from any time, who would it be and why? > How about a beer with Bruce Springsteen. He just seems like a guy who would be fun to drink a beer with!

Are you a Beyoncé fan? > I’m more of a Sasha Fierce fan…

What album are you really digging right now? > 5 actually…Night Visions by Imagine Dragons, Babel by Mumford & Sons, All the Little Lights by Passenger, The Heist by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and also Macklemore’s The Unplanned Mixtape.

photoimageDo you have any pets? > Yes! Chocolate and Black lab puppies, and 2 Red Eared Slider Turtles.

What is your favorite food? > Shrimp Alfredo pasta.

What can people find you doing when you’re not at Murfie? > Golfing! I love playing golf and spending time on the course. I actually worked in the golf industry before joining Murfie.

Now you know some more about Tyler Stubbe, someone who does a lot for Murfie! You can follow him on Twitter via @t1uptyler. Stay tuned—you’ll get to know another Murfie staffer next week!

Staff Picks: Emma’s Picks

Let’s start with my favorite album, the bread and butter of my daily listening experience:

ImageClassics by Ratatat

Looking for some smooth jams to chill out to? How about mildly energetic beats to motivate you through a long work session? What if you don’t want to deal with lyrics? This album is the answer. I listen through it at least twice a week over the past two years. Never gets old.

The track “Wildcat” has an awesome cat rawr that’s used musically throughout the song. Another favorite track is “Lex”, it has a great build, add more layers, more building, then an epic climax. This album is perfect for a variety of moods and situations, as well as a great introduction to a less heard style of electronic music.

Now a more recent addition to my collection:

Good Morning to the Night by Elton John vs. Pnau Image

I first stumbled on this album through a friend who mixes and creates his own electro songs. Watching someone who knows what they’re doing in the music mixer program is like watching a surgeon. Precision is everything. The time cuts, layers, sounds levels, texture, everything is delicately labored over. Knowing that, I was able to appreciate even more the magic Pnau used to create this album. Elton John choose Pnau to hack apart, mix up, jumble and rumble his less famous tracks from 1970-1976.

Boy oh boy did they do a magnificent job. Listening through it sounds completely Elton-esque, but with a definite influence from Pnau. The title track is definitely the most catchy and is created from 8 different Elton John songs. This is the future of music collaboration!