Three years ago when Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats released its self-titled debut album, that opening effort – released via Stax/Concord – from the Denver-based outfit was received to rather positive reaction. It reached the top spot on Billboard’s folk charts and peaked at number four on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums chart. Critics likened the group’s sound to legends the likes of Otis Redding, Van Morrison and others while having plenty of positives to write of the album. It wasn’t the band’s full-on proverbial A-game. Even this critic will agree to that, but in the same breath, it was still a strong first effort from the group. That means expectations were high for the group’s sophomore album. Enter that album, Tearing at the Seams. Released early just this past March, Tearing at the Seams lives up to those expectations. It takes the positives of the group’s debut and builds on them even more to create the end result presented here. That is evident in part through the songs’ arrangements and the album’s production, which will be discussed shortly. The songs’ lyrical themes do just as much to make that evident. They will be discussed a little bit later. The album’s sequencing also serves to make that evident. Each element is obviously important in its own right to the whole of this record. All things considered, they make Tearing at the Seams a solid follow-up to Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats that shows even more promise for this group’s future.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats’ sophomore album Tearing at the Seams is an impressive new effort that is anything but a sophomore slump. Released March 9 via Stax Records, this 12-song, 47-minute album shows notable growth from the band’s self-titled debut in so many ways, not the least of which is its collective arrangements and production thereof. The arrangements presented here are works that take listeners back in time once again like opening a musical time capsule left long untouched. What’s more, they don’t stick to just one influence in their presentation. Right from the album’s outset, listeners are treated to an arrangement in ‘Shoe Boot’ that are reminiscent of so many great classic soul tunes. That is thanks to the use of the horns, keyboards and percussion. They keyboards, guitar and percussion at the center of ‘A Little Honey’ instantly conjures thoughts of Elton John’s classic ‘Benny & The Jets.’ That is meant in the most complimentary fashion possible. The Otis Redding comparison is there again, too late in the album’s run in ‘Still Out There Running.’ One could even liken the arrangement at the center of ‘Intro’ to great works from James Brown and other similar acts. At this point, it should be clear how this album’s collective arrangements make evident how this album builds on its predecessor and impresses even more than that record. In the same vein, the production of the album’s songs does so much to help generate that sound of a musical time capsule being opened for the first time in decades.
The production work behind this album is so notable because of its role in the album’s general effect. Producer Richard Swift (The Shins, Foxygen) – who also worked with the band on its 2015 self-titled debut – is to be applauded for his work behind the glass once again. Thanks to his efforts, and those of the band, the arrangements get a sound that is just like something right out of the 1960s and ‘70s. That is evident in the static/fuzz style touch on so many of the arrangements. Even in the album’s more rock-oriented arrangements, such as that of ‘A Little Honey,’ ‘Hey Mama’ and the album’s lead single, ‘You Worry Me,’ there’s still a certain sound and feel that makes such works sound like they were lifted from days long gone. It’s a nice touch to the album’s general effect, and ensures even more listeners’ engagement from start to end. It’s just one more element that shows how much this album has built on its predecessor, and in turn made it that much more enjoyable than that album. The songs’ lyrical themes are important to note in their own right, too.
The lyrical themes presented throughout TATS show growth from the band this time out just as much as the album’s arrangements and production because of the topics that are presented and the fashion in which they are presented. Obviously the standard theme of romantic relationships is there and tackled in various different lyrical fashions. It is not the only theme presented here, though. ‘Hey Mama’ seems to delve into personal experiences from one of the band members as it notes, “Hey mama/Why it’s me/Say you better wait, child/Said you’ve been a long time running/Saving a long time money/Hey mama/Answer me/baby boy, you better sit down/Can’t listen when the sun’s out/My only son, this’ll be so hard to hear.” From here, the song’s subject – seeming to be a parent talking to a child – seems to be telling the other that there is a lot more to learn in life and a lot more to experience than already has been. This is inferred as the primary subject sings, “You ain’t gone far enough to say/At least I tried/You ain’t worked hard enough to say/Well I’ve done mine/You ain’t run far enough to say/My legs have failed.” This is a strong statement, especially considering the song’s main subject before launching into this lecture, “She said son, let me reason with you/You think you carry such a weight/I know I never beat you, boy/Better start acting like this here’s a race.” Simply put, this song comes across lyrically as a parent trying to talk some sense into a child. It’s a nice change of pace from the more overly familiar material presented here.
The lyrical theme of the album’s title track is another one that seems to break from that standard mold of personal relationships. What’s interesting here is the manner in which Rateliff has laid out the song, lyrically speaking. It obviously is not about a romantic relationship. At the same time, one could argue it comes across as a social commentary of sorts. This is the case as Rateliff sings, “Wait/Is this a game or am I walking into a snare/Now these lies will spread until we are choking on the innocent/They have half of us tied and half of us in chains/We’re all covering our eyes/And covering our mouths just the same.” He even notes in the song’s lead verse, “There’s a liar/A liar on the stage with a young child’s eyes/And it happens all wrong/And only half of it’s seen from here.” He asks in the song’s chorus, “Where’s all the time gone/In separate ways it runs long/A hundred miles built upon us/It’s tearing at the seams of all that’s been/They’re gonna have to drag us away.” One could argue the mention of the “liar…with a young child’s eyes” could easily be likened a mention of America’s current top politician. The note of something “tearing at the seams of all that’s been” and “half of us” being “tied and half of us in chains” could just as easily be considered a social commentary of sorts. This is, of course, only this critic’s take on the song. It could be entirely incorrect. Hopefully it is close to being correct. Either way, the execution of the song’s lyrics itself is certain to have plenty of people talking. Keeping this in mind, it is just one more way in which the song’s lyrical themes show this album’s growth from the band’s debut. When it – and the other noted songs – are considered along with the rest of the album’s songs, they show even more how much this album shows the band’s continued growth. It still is not the last way in which this album shows the band’s growth. The album’s sequencing also serves to exhibit that growth.
From start to finish, TATS’ sequencing exhibits growth from the band because of its ability to keep listeners engaged and entertained. The album’s first trio of songs is a group of solid, mid-tempo soulful opuses that vary little in their musical energies. Even as the album progresses into ‘Say It Louder’ and slows, that pull back is minute at best, ensuring just as much, listeners’ engagement and entertainment. It isn’t until the album nears its midway point in ‘Hey Mama’ that it really noticeably slows. That reserved energy couples quite well with its lyrical content, too, ensuring even more that maintained engagement. Listeners get one more reserved arrangement in ‘Babe I Know’ at the album’s midway point before things finally start to pick back up. What’s really interesting in this arrangement is that to a point, it easily lends itself to comparisons to works from Bob Dylan thanks to the vocal delivery. Musically, it sounds like a piece from the late 1950s/early 1960s, which is another change of pace for the band here, and a welcome one at that. The album’s energy gradually grows again over the course of its next four songs before starting to pull back again to finish off in its last two compositions. The bigger picture here is that of a record that rises and falls in all of the right places, musically. That shows great time and thought was put into the album’s sequencing. That time and thought paid off just as much as the work put into the songs and their arrangements, and of course their lyrical themes. Keeping that in mind, all three elements show in their own way how much this record has built on the success of the group’s debut to make this one its own success. All things considered, they make Tearing at the Scenes yet more promise for the future of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats.
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’ sophomore album Tearing at the Scenes, is another successful offering from the Denver-based group. That is because over the course of its 12-song, 47-minute run, it shows in so many ways that the band has taken the success of its self-titled debut and built on it so much in this presentation. This is evident immediately through the album’s songs and their production. Collectively, these two elements make this album sound like a musical time capsule that has miraculously been delivered to the present from one of music’s greatest eras without ever having been touched. The lyrical themes presented throughout the record show growth, too, as the band is once again not afraid to stretch its creative wings beyond the standard songs of love gained and lost. The time and though put into the album’s sequencing shows plenty of growth, too. That’s because from start to end, the album ensures listeners’ engagement and entertainment without worry of listeners skipping any tracks. Keeping all of this in mind, it is clear that Rateliff and company have grown a lot since releasing the group’s debut three years ago. The result of that growth is a record that, once again, shows plenty of promise for the band’s future. Tearing at the Seams is available now in stores and online. More information on Tearing at the Seams is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:
To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.