Animal Feelings

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“Get your ass out on the floor,” Rafter Roberts sings at one point on Animal Feelings, and for the first time, it feels like he could get a crowd to follow him. He tried mixing his love of R&B and Pop with a capital P with his indie roots previously on the Sweaty Magic EP, but there it felt half-baked -- not because he didn’t love and understand the influences he was borrowing from, but because he hadn’t quite gotten them to play nicely together yet. Here, Rafter brings those sounds into focus without losing the kitchen-sink charm of his earlier music. Animal Feelings gets back to (human) nature, singing the joys of simple but vital things like love, lust, and dancing. “No Fucking Around” gets right to the point, opening the album with funky vocoder vocals and cowbell, but its singsong melody is pure indie pop. The big, surprisingly muscular sound of “Never Gonna Die”’s tribal beat and “Paper”’s lush layers show that Rafter can make pure pop without sacrificing any of his personality -- and that, in fact, going in a more streamlined direction allows his mischievous spirit to come out and play to its fullest. Animal Feelings shines particularly brightly when Roberts juxtaposes unexpected sounds, like the title track’s honky tonk pianos and bongos, or when 8-bit synths jostle against ukulele riffs and a shouted chorus on the excellent and very danceable “A Frame.” He’s better at this kind of musical alchemy than trying to replicate his influences; the vocoders come close to parody on the slow jam “Feels Good.” Likewise, Rafter is at his best when the songs are cute, but not cutesy -- the (slightly) more grown-up sounds of “Timeles Form, Formless Time”’s sweet Afro-pop guitars, brass, and harmonies and the Latin-tinged “Beauty Beauty” are standouts. Animal Feelings is still more sweet than sweaty, and may not get indie diehards to shake what their mamas gave them. Nevertheless, it more than delivers on the promise of Rafter’s earlier music and fits right in with YACHT, Dan Deacon, Bobby Birdman, and the other acts fusing electronic, pop, R&B, and indie pop elements into playful grooves.

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