The soul and blues tinged eight-piece band, Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats, was born back in the 2013. Though perhaps it would be more accurate to say that in his newest incarnation Rateliff has been reborn.
Previously devising folk-driven contemplative solo work, Nathaniel Rateliff’s trademark remains his voice; it careens with abandon, expertly expressing the slow searing pain of a heart left wounded and exposed in chest ripped open by life, a life of cruelties that linger unseen but felt from the fissures of human relationships.
In The Night Sweats self titled debut album is most successful though when it continues to plumb the depths of an emotion or situation with care in true Nathaniel Rateliff fashion, but through a sound that is fuller and more communal through horn-hooting, foot-stomping, hand clapping, and hearty harmonies. Some of the better examples of this fall in the first half of the album, with songs like “I Need Never Get Old”, “I’ve Been Failing”, “Wasting Time”, and “S.O.B.”.
The album’s single, “S.O.B.”, is the perhaps its most triumphant song, as evidenced by the recent live performance on Jimmy Fallon (which received a well-deserved standing ovation). “S.O.B.” features the albums heaviest theme, with the lyrics parsing out the urge to “drink my life away”, and the anxiety – “my hands are shaking, bugs are crawling all over me” – that fuels addiction. Yet it also showcases a more playful (and dancing) Rateliff singing with a joy that rings out in spite of the pain at its core.
The volume turns down on the energy on the second half of the album after “S.O.B.”. Sometimes falling flat in moments where it is resembles musical mumblecore, in a maze of contemplation with no clear path or exit, with no real spark or compelling pull instrumentally. There are other moments, often a turn of phrase similar in tone and pace, reminiscent of Rateliff’s earlier work, that break into a seemingly more intentional return in style, where the instrumentation is stripped back and the charismatic rawness of his voice beams out. However, such distinct detours are few and far between, and tend to work well against the bigger sound of the album.
On the whole, the album is more hopeful than Rateliff’s previous albums (especially Falling Faster Than You Can Run). In addition to speaking about addition, disappointment, and tiredness, much of lyrics focus on the sweeter side of things: reuniting and dancing with the one you love and fighting for a relationship. Usually the master of restraint, this time around Rateliff brings new life to his music by letting loose.
Written by Nina Leonard
OurVinyl | Contributor