“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.
It’s sometimes hard to tell whether Rafter Roberts is being entirely serious. He’s released a string of catchy if schizophrenic albums (most recently 2008’s Sweaty Magic) that appear to crack open the definitions of pop, dance, electro, and funk, then hit purée: whatever comes out is not so much a statement as a wild-eyed, frantic indication of the discovery of a new land. These previous efforts sometimes came up just a little bit short, and ended up crashing in the bushes of experimental noise despite their moments of grin-inducing pleasure.
Rafter is definitely not a pop star. He’s a producer and engineer associated with Asthmatic Kitty, not an ex-mouseketeer associated with Jive. His CV includes stints working with cred-worthy bands like Hot Snakes, Sufjan Stevens, Castanets, Rapture and others. He is presumably one of us, not one of them.
In the alt-rock era, the mainstream longed to sound like the underground and trends bubbled up from below. Sometimes, the flow of inspiration works in the other direction. How else to explain the prevalence of tiny indie artists trying to sound like Justin Timberlake, replete with stuttering beats, synthesizer squelches, and processed vocals? This is the approach of Rafter Roberts on Animal Feelings.
So much has been said about the seriousness of music that we often forget to just have a good time with it. Purists argue that music should be carefully left alone and not tainted in any possible way, while others combat that music should be an expression of whatever you’re feeling and allowing it to run its own course is far more important. Whatever the case may be, or whatever side you’re on, you have to appreciate something as fresh as Rafter.
Rafter's Animal Feelings is the album equivalent of the loud-shirted guy who interrupts conversations out of some core desire to appeal to everyone but who ends up being annoying. [rssbreak] San Diego's Rafter Roberts, who's produced Castanets and the Fiery Furnaces, takes his bag of tricks and empties it onto this disc of R&B-inspired dance pop. There's mbira, sax, trombone and, unfortunately, talk box, the easily-mistaken-for-Auto-Tune device that made a generation hate Peter Frampton.