Ratatat Classics

[XL; 2006]

Styles: hard-groovin’ instrumental fare
Others: Mum, M83, Savath + Savalas, Four Tet

On long drives to the lake as a kid, there was a song that would always grace the family station-wagon radio, the one that goes, "Every time I try to tell you/ The words just come out wrong/ So I'll try to say I love you/ In a song." Ratatat, though they don't croon, are so indebted to this line of thinking that they might as well have Jim Croce tattoo'd on their skinny white asses. Classics, much like 'tat's self-titled debut, is a uniform experiment in instrumentation-as-expression, the layercake of synths, guitars and hip-hop-ish beats intimating moods we all thought we needed diction to get across.

The general feeling seems to be that Ratatat's music has two mutually exclusive characteristics. First, the albums play out really well from start to finish with little deviation or lag time. Second, Ratatat's compositions, while very easy to glom onto, have a ceiling. They are fun and light, but at the end of the day, they can only lift you so high before you scrape your head on the asbestos. While the duo have shown an inborn understanding of non-verbal communication, the very tool they use to lure new listeners — exceedingly one-note, warm-sounding arrangements — is what leaves them on the rack when you need something you can pay your full, undivided attention to.

So let's just enjoy them for what they are. For all the technology they bring to the table, Ratatat are soulful and savvy, putting everything in its right place and locking the listener in. You can chortle at the random gimmicks — the tiger yelps of "Wildcat," for instance — but tracks like "Gettysburg" will brighten the corners of your day by hitting just the right tones, just the right notes. Sure, you could ask for more with so many musical options out there, but you could also do much, much worse.

1. Montanita
2. Lex
3. Gettysburg
4. Wildcat
5. Tropicana
6. Loud Pipes
7. Kennedy
8. Swisha
9. Nostrand
10. Tacobel Canon

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