As first hinted in his 2017 Split EP single “Dogfight,” Nick Rattigan has discovered a new way to emotionally convey himself to audiences. This method has consisted of matching concise glistening guitar notes with deep tones, complemented by vocals that invoke an image of painstaking delivery.
“Become the Warm Jets” sets the tone and flow of the record immediately. Its steady drum and percussion beat is followed by a deep-toned guitar that carefully slides on down, his guitar a musical banister, allowing the listener to let go and float away. Rattigan lyrically establishes himself with, “All my life’s just something I can’t ignore.” He must keep going. Through his music, he knows he can work through his problems.
“Fear” struts in with a looping melody. Demanding your attention with an insistent drum beat that falls underneath sparkling dead guitars. On an album of restrained, ruminating arrangements, “Fear” sticks out as a mid-tempo number. Rattigan cries, “I never knew it when I was young.” Followed soon by the desperate realization that “It’s so hard to stop the rain.”
Lyrics like these have been used plenty of times over across genres. Rattigan, however, gets you to believe him as his wails increase, culminating in, “But I don’t want to be afraid, I don’t want to live this way, I don’t want you to leave.” Rattigan is taking simple, candid, bare phrases and delivering them with an honesty and emotion, which soon after it grabs hold of you, won’t let go.
The synth is effectually timed, fitting strongly with its accompanying music video that shows the camera panning around the room to Rattigan’s friends and loved ones. Listening to the song has this effect too. You feel yourself circling as the synth line wanders about. The “Fear” is anxiety. Which Rattigan has elaborated on in interviews, along with revealing that the common theme of the album is rain, and indeed this word surfaces across most songs on A Different Age.
“Alabama” picks up the synth where it left off, and deceptively teases itself as an uplifting song. Until Rattigan begins singing.
Employing his steady guitar style over the synth. It should not be a mystery why Rattigan titled this song “Alabama.” There is a soothing country vibe to it. Characteristically draped in Rattigan’s mournful musicality.
“Way Out Here” takes Rattigan’s vocals and thins them out even further, working well with his high-pitched delivery. Simple, but concentrated guitar notes are used in this song as well. This is a theme that persists throughout the record. To some, this will be a detriment. As it can very well have the effect of hearing the same song over and over. Yet, this minimalist approach does work towards driving home the overriding emotions found throughout the record. Like other artists, take Lana Del Rey for example, Rattigan is very much focusing on a singular approach with this album. Perhaps his most concentrated since his debut, Wild Heart. A wildly (see what I did there) different album style-wise, well worth checking out.
“No Words” is true to its title. There are no words on the track. I was a tad humored by this at first, along with the accompanying music video that shows us a pale, makeup layered woman on her bed. She does not move… yes, not at all… throughout the entire video. I’m not sure if she even blinks.
This song develops into a quite chilling affair once the piercing synths enter in towards the final two minutes. When first hearing the strings, I thought they were thrown in randomly. Yet, upon second listen, I realized that they were strategically placed to create an unsettling sensation. As does the image, or should I say, video of the woman on the bed. She does fade away at the end, I can tell you.
What comes next cannot be defined as other than a transcendent point in music that few albums reach. Suddenly the purpose of “No Words” becomes clear. The instrumental functions to give “In a year of 13 moons” maximum poignant impact.
Tender acoustic progressions recall the unassuming but affecting tunes that Lou Reed once penned. Nevertheless, Rattigan keeps this one thoroughly his own. Even allowing his mistakes to be left in with a faint unintended off-strum of the guitar here and there.
I have been wondering, is Rattigan this generation’s Elliott Smith, or now Lou Reed? These comparisons are ridiculous to make, considering all three are creating or have created emotionally moving music in their own unique style. Still, Rattigan’s commitment to playing every instrument himself mirrors Elliott Smith’s fanatical drive throughout his career to keep his music, his.
“In a year of 13 moons” crowning jewel is unveiled when Rattigan exhales, “Now you’re so far, away”. His falsetto perfectly harmonizing with the keyboard.
“A Different Age” is the most confrontational Rattigan gets on the record. He directly addresses what makes him different from most songwriters. “Oh, you don’t know me, because I’m from a different age.” One could critique this phrase as pretentious, yet another angle that can be taken is that Rattigan is finally standing up for himself, on a record full of him lamenting who he is as a person. It’s rather inspiring, with the only detriment being that the song falls into a predictable pattern, yet getting by with some endearing displays of humor, such as the final line, “But this song is a joke and the melody I wrote, wrote!” before crashing drums and an increasingly descending melody rides out the tune.
Like “No Words,” “A Different Age” sets up the penultimate track, “My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days” for all-out soul-baring impact.
Possibly Rattigan’s finest composition to date. “My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days” revolves around a meandering ear worm of a melody punctuated by Rattigan’s arresting confessional lyrics.
“You try to run from the past, but there are some things you can’t leave behind, just like the first time you and I met, it’s impossible to outrun the times.”
Once again Rattigan is using concise, direct language, matched with his heart aching utterances to convey his view on life. What results is a stunning whirlwind of emotions that encapsulates who Nick Rattigan is as a songwriter.
“There is something between you and me, it feels like a new disease,” articulates the feeling of an intense love that is ultimately not good for either partner. Rattigan speaks to many people of all ages that have experienced an inimitable chemistry with someone, and yet, for whatever reason, cannot work it out with them. Another more personal interpretation of this song is that Rattigan is speaking about the entrance of a new love into his life. He is so jaded by the past that he labels this newfound love as a disease in an effort to protect himself from the pain he believes will inevitably come.
“And there’s no easy way to say, that I’m leaving you behind” signals the end. He doesn’t want to leave this person behind, but there is no choice left. Perhaps they hurt each other too much, to the point where no energy is left. A distance has developed, but there is still a love that can be suspected in the speaker’s self with the final cry, “Can you hear me drift away?” He is asking on his way out, do you still care? Is there anything left between you and me?
The synths swell, much like “Become the Warm Jets,” but this time with graceful melody. Perhaps this can be interpreted as the response of the person our protagonist is speaking to.
To this reviewer, this is the ultimate penultimate album track, and the album certainly could have ended with this epic.
I’ve been trying to figure out what makes Rattigan’s music so appealing in the never-ending sea of indie music. One conclusion is his music has soul, a rare quality in songwriters. His ability to write passionately in his lyrics, then perform it with that same passion is incredibly moving.
Borrowing from another genre, it would be fair to say A Different Age contains an underlying blues feel. Rattigan’s music focuses in on grooves, evident in “Become the Warm Jets” and “Fear.” When this groove is loosened, room for something truly special can occur. Great songwriters epitomize themselves only a few times in a career, and “My Nights…” is certainly one of those moments for Rattigan.
“Fox” serves as a comedown from “My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days.” It’s exhausted from the rollercoaster of emotions in the previous track. Rattigan is numb. He just wants to cut past all the nonsense. He implores whoever comes into his life next to “Say what you mean and please don’t leave out anything.” He is tired of the back and forth, the racing emotions. Defeated he utters, “Cause all I really need is somebody, to break my heart, cut into my bones and tear, me apart. All I really need is somebody, to drive me insane, and feel that one more time before the feeling, goes away.”
Life wouldn’t matter much to him if it weren’t for relationships. There is a feeling that goes beyond depression, and that is the feeling of solitary numbness and having no one. “Come into my life and wreck it, whoever you are, because it would be better than this island I am on right now,” could very well be what Rattigan is asking for.
Speculation is all there is…
“Cause you and I were just like the rain, we never mean to fall but we do it. Anyways, and just as we came we’ll go away 'cause you and I, we’re just like the rain”.