Ratatat - LP4

Anyone expecting much of a change on Ratatat’s fourth album will be disappointed. Steady as she goes for the duo of Mike Stroud and Evan Mast on LP4, which is good news for anyone who’s fallen in love with the sound of their previous work. Their trademark sound of chunky rhythms, soaring guitar harmonies, 8-bit textures, and sunny, catchy melodies remains fully intact, and the minor innovations of LP3 remain as well. Just as on that fine album, there are a few songs with a string section, a couple that slow the tempo, and an overall balanced mix of real instruments and electronics. The only real additions to the sound are the occasional talkbox sounds that provide comedic, yet funky, underpinnings on a couple of tracks. While in less sure hands this could have been played off as a joke, in Ratatat’s expert operation it comes off as a brilliant quirk. Indeed, every sound on the record is perfectly placed; the songs are constructed like a mosaic of glittering shards of glass and metal. Whether it’s the clicking drums that dart and lope like lions or that moment when the guitars slide from one chord to the next and it takes your breath away (to mention two examples), the duo’s mastery of sound and dynamics is almost magical. It’s impressive enough that Ratatat have come up with a sound that is instantly recognizable as their own; to be able to write songs as majestic as “Sunblocks,” as hooky as “Neckbrace,” and as late-night slinky as “Mandy” (which boasts some perfectly realized disco strings) almost doesn’t seem fair. It feels like they could keep making these records forever with no diminishing returns; the level of quality and imagination never drops an inch on LP4.