There’s something you’ve got to love about wholesome, feel good music. Yes, it’s nice to listen to serious musicians making serious and emotive tracks, but at the end of the day, there’s nothing I’d rather listen to to blow out the cobwebs than a classic party tune filled with horns, soulful vocals and an easily repeated chorus.
In the instance of Nathaniel Rateliff, he’s managed to instill this feeling in a heap of his albums, and continues to do so on new release The Future. With his band The Night Sweats in tow for The Future, Rateliff brings a version of his signature upbeat happiness, while getting in touch with an increased level of emotive anguish and groove.
Rateliff is now most well known here and abroad for his Americana soul sounds, matched with rough vocals, having previously embraced a style that bordered mostly along acoustic country and love songs. Now with a more energetic vibe via the re-introduction of The Night Sweats, The Future is all effort in all areas without ever contemplating to look back on his past musical stylings.
Opening up with the titular “The Future”, Rateliff does his best at creating the love child of Bob Dylan and Alexander Ebert of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes. From the drawn out syllables of Dylan to the howling and growling in the choruses that Ebert once mastered, “The Future” is a pleasant Americana tinged opener that sets the pace for the remainder of the release. Diving straight into “Survivor, the first single of the album, the band falls back safely into their soul sounds, with the song’s instrumentation sounding a little like AM era Arctic Monkeys mixed with Alabama Shakes.
Slowing it down on “Face Down In The Moment”, it’s a simple song with simple instrumentation but a bullet proof sentiment of trying to let go when you really don’t think you can or should. Taking a more fun and light turn on “Something Ain’t Right” (it sounds just like something Car Seat Headrest would release), it’s obvious over the first third of the album that Rateliff is more than happy to change the tone of the album at the drop of a hat and make it work each and every time.
The middle stages of the album ventures into elements of jazz (“Love Me ‘Til I’m Gone” is a moody favourite), the soulful and willingly different “Baby I Got Your Number” (think Michael Kiwanuka vibes), and the question filled “What If I?”, another song that brings in a choir to supply backing vocals while once again allowing Ratefliff’s vocals to ease out and take the lead. As The Future enters its closing four songs, you get the sense that while the album has so far been solid and some of Rateliff’s best work to date, it still hasn’t reached its peak and could well and truly be ready to unleash some real quality moments. And unleash it does.
The wholesome “I’m On Your Side”, is an almost call to arms to those in your circle you know you can rely on and whom can rely on you. It’s sweet, sincere and filled with those feel good horns Rateliff and The Night Sweats have built their sound on. Second to last is “Oh I”, a track that canters along over its opening half before picking it up with layers of horns, harmonies and a warm glow you’d expect to close a feel good festival set with.
The album closer is the riotous and straight out hit “Love Don’t” a track that has the hallmarks of all the best moments of mo-town as well as that song you accidentally walk into mid-festival set only to find your new favourite band. As close as Rateliff could get to copying his most well know track “S.O.B”, I challenge you to find any flaw or bad times in “Love Don’t”; you won’t.
While definitely not a complete album that does at times struggle with its pacing, The Future is an incredibly enjoyable listen from beginning to end. At this late stage of what’s been a tumultuous two years, the timing of a feel good album like The Future bodes well, for well, the future. Listen to it, enjoy it, have a good time; you’ll be better for it.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Future is out Friday 5 November.