The Raveonettes

2016 Atomized

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After recording and releasing a career's worth of good to brilliant albums over a 15-year span, the Raveonettes decided to try something different in 2016. They wrote and recorded a song a month, offering them for download and then collecting them on 2016 Atomized. The process forced them to work quickly, with Sune Rose Wagner often delivering the nearly finished tracks to Sharin Foo so she could add vocals mere hours before the deadline. The nature of how the recordings were made didn't do much to alter the basic core sound the duo have established over the years. The noise-drenched '50s pop meets knife-scarred Blondie approach still informs everything they do, and there are plenty of really strong songs here that could only be by the Raveonettes. Tracks like "Won't You Leave Me Alone" and "Where Are You Wild Horses" have all the blasted glamour and death-obsessed guitar overload of the duo's best work. Mostly though, the order of the day seems to have been experimentation, as Wagner takes plenty of left turns and tries out all kinds of new and interesting stuff. They add some hip-hop and even a little bit of doomy whispered rapping to "Run Mascara Run," forgo guitars entirely on "This World Is Empty (Without You)," layer in funky drummer samples on the snappy pop strutter "Scout," and build the ultra-peppy "Choke on Love" around some samba beats and tropical guitar twang. That's just a taste of the new colors and textures Wagner brings to the songs; he really goes all out to make the most of the process, and in the end it turns out that 2016 Atomized is the band's most varied and unique-sounding album yet. Whatever style or sound they take on, they conquer. Whether it's epically chilly synth pop ("Fast Food"), swaggering modern rock ("EXCUSES"), oddball David Lynchian pop ("A Good Fight"), or good old blown-out noise pop ("Junko Ozawa"), Wagner's quest for exploration, his unerring ability to marry hooks with danger, and Foo's always perfect vocals never miss. Whether the duo plan to work this way in the future or not, 2016 Atomized documents a year when they successfully rebooted their sound and opened up their future to all kinds of possibilities.

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