Rat Wakes Red is in a constant state of mourning and wonder. Summer 2010 brings "Acres". The new LP would suggest a prolonged elegy to the dead and awakening. It is a spectacle of simple sounds: piano, acoustic guitar, synths, organ, strings, woodwinds,...
Rat Wakes Red is in a constant state of mourning and wonder. Summer 2010 brings "Acres". The new LP would suggest a prolonged elegy to the dead and awakening. It is a spectacle of simple sounds: piano, acoustic guitar, synths, organ, strings, woodwinds, drums, tin whistle and many, many voices. James Raftery sings, plays, plucks and blows. Jeral Benjamin returns to produce and provide violas while woodwind stars chime in to emboss the layered lather. Matt Raftery adds the needed kick from his drums while Hannah Fury lends her voice to “Always”. The ensuing song service is sung from the heavens inside, like an internal choir and orchestra. It comes from loss, change, death, and new beginnings. A slow burn of sad, beautiful dark nights of the soul.
“Acoustic folk guitar and viola, with a whispery, troubled voice? Yes please! Rat Wakes Red is a strange moniker for such an exquisite murmur…”, so wrote Jack Rabid in The Big Takeover upon hearing Rat Wakes Red’s debut album Dizzy on Daddy, a lush, romantic, edgy song cycle of heartache and yearning. Rat Wakes Red began as James Raftery creating songs in late night living room light. Odes to longing and loss found their way to producer Jeral Benjamin and together with 32 tracks and a spare lineup of James on acoustic guitar, voice, found sound percussion and Jeral's multi-tracked viola they created Dizzy on Daddy, a sad and sweet wall of sound. Rabid continued “Each time Raftery hits one of his bass strings, it slips into a slice of Jeral Benjamin's hovering viola, and the air is like leaves falling on a fall day.” Rat Wakes Red followed up with a second full-length release Horizon Drops. Electric guitar, keys, drums, and bass provide the flipside to the previous acoustic rush. The songs are louder, faster and rock, with James' voice returning in harmonic hooks and cryptic choruses. From the Sentimentalist Magazine, “Horizon Drops combines shimmering 4AD, Throwing Muses inspired moments…”. Rat Wakes Red’s most recent release is the ep/dvd, Energy Garage. The songs and music video are spacey acoustic folk, pop with sweeping strings, and quirky rock. The Ectophiles’ Guide declared it “…a folksy and intriguing EP, only four songs but they really hit the mark”. Radio quickly took notice of Rat Wakes Red with Dizzy on Daddy and Horizon Drops charting CMJ and AAA Top 30. Rat Wakes Red has played live shows from NYC to Toronto and has opened for such artists as Bob Mould, Hayden, and Sloan.
Discography Dizzy on Daddy- RD001/C Weekend EP- RD002/C Horizon Drops- RD003/C Energy Garage ep/dvd-RD004 CD/DVD
yes, please! by The Big Takeover Acoustic folk guitar and viola, with a whispery, troubled voice? Yes please! Rat Wakes Red is a strange moniker for such an exquisite murmur, but James Raftery makes lovely music that has a lot in...
folksy and intriguing... by The Ectophiles' Guide Rat Wakes Red returns with a folksy and intriguing EP, only four songs but they really hit the mark. "Energy Garage" itself is soft folk with a superlative vocal. "You" is dreamy and reminds me of...
yes, please! by The Big Takeover Acoustic folk guitar and viola, with a whispery, troubled voice? Yes please! Rat Wakes Red is a strange moniker for such an exquisite murmur, but James Raftery makes lovely music that has a lot in common with Elliott Smith (in fact, his double-tracked voice is so similar, we might not be able to tell them apart blindfolded!) and Bookends-era Simon & Garfunkel. One could imagine Gus Van Zant or Mike Nichols using these recordings in a film Good Will Hunting or The Graduate-style; they're affecting-nagging in a similar manner. Think of the unhappy Bill Murray diving in the pool and staying submerged to The Kinks' worrisome Kinda Kinks folk-ditty, "Nothin' in the World Will Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl," and that's the pensive mood of meditative musing here. Each time Raftery hits one of his bass strings, it slips into a slice of Jeral Benjamin's hovering viola, and the air is like leaves falling on a fall day. See "Dead Ringer," a pretty song that's a comment about continually making the same romantic mistakes, for an example of this at its best. - Jack Rabid
folksy and intriguing... by The Ectophiles' Guide Rat Wakes Red returns with a folksy and intriguing EP, only four songs but they really hit the mark. "Energy Garage" itself is soft folk with a superlative vocal. "You" is dreamy and reminds me of Red House Painters, in its slow hush. The EP is over way too soon and whets the appetite for a new album.
cocksure and vulnerable... by Sentamentalist Magazine Though their new release Energy Garage will be nearly out when this issue hits, it's always worth going back and exploring a band's previous release. Horizon Drops combines shimmering 4AD, Throwing Muses inspired moments with chunky bass-fueled sounds. Songs like "Weekend" stand out with hooks, smooth vocals and off-kilter phrasing reminiscent of bands like Autolux, which is always a plus. Rat Wakes Red's approach is a fragile balance between cocksure and vulnerable, drawing you in immediately. Songwriter James Raftery has a knack for switching between intensity ("Spider") and sublime introspection ("Lovely Invalid") with the greatest of ease, making for a dynamic listen. - Cleo
lush and lovely by Alarm Magazine
Rat Wakes Red is James Raftery (vocals, guitar, keyboard and other sounds) and Jeral Benjamin (viola). From Raftery we get a voice reminiscent of Elliott Smith, combined with the finger-picking of Nick Drake. As you can imagine, the end result borders on dismal, or what the duo refers to as "odes to longing and loss." Multi-layered harmonies mixed in with strings and keyboards create a wall of sound that enhances the all-encompassing sound of this drumless neo-gothic folk. And Raftery is quite the storyteller, which is part of what breaks your heart, because it often sounds as though he is speaking directly to you. It's a little difficult to take in large doses, since the down-trodden feeling you get from hearing it will put you in tears or curled up in the fetal position. In small doses though, it is lush and lovely, and if you're into lying around and feeling sorry for yourself, let the entire thing play through.
- Eddie Fournier
musical melodrama by Splendid E-zine I only feel somewhat sorry for the record shop clerk who must figure out where to shelve Rat Wakes Red's Dizzy on Daddy after a few in-store plays. I say somewhat because Rat Wakes Red's Dizzy on Daddy is a soothing yet deceptively simple poetic piece. It's easy on the ears but proves to be an eyebrow furrowing genre-classification challenge: is it indie acoustic or postmodern acoustic experimentation? Four years in the making, Dizzy on Daddy employs James Raftery's voice accompanied by tings and pings of found objects, and Jeral Benjamin's string section joins in to enact the characteristics of chamber music. Raftery's harmonious vocals and musical arrangements resemble the placidity of a deep stream flowing along its course while the lyrics are like the eerie, honest confessional murmurs of the lost lives which rest on the stream's bottom. The cascading chorus of the pill-poppers ode "Ecstacy," and the generic zombie film keyboards which form the foundation of Rat Wakes Red's version of Belly's "Silverfish" pay homage to the likes of Kristin Hersh, Kate Bush and Leonard Cohen, who also make pain and loss the cornerstone of their musical melodramas.
- Deirdre Devers
...a sublime sonic sedation of melodies. by Boston's Weekly Dig It would appear, from listening to this disc, that Rat's got a few problems, and with a nickname like Rat, where do you start? Sometimes it's just best to take your ol' friend the geetar and work out a few of those problems on your own, in your living room, by yourself. And that's where this story begins. Producer/violist Jeral Benjamin caught wind of Rat's (a.k.a. James Raftery) late night living room rants and put the boy in the studio where he belonged. Dizzy on Daddy consists of 32-layered tracks of guitar, vocals, found-sound percussion (no drums) and viola...but mostly vocals. Rat Wakes Red blends neo-gothic-folk with modern 21st century recording to produce a sublime sonic sedation of melodies. I say folk because I guess that's what you're supposed to call a singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar, but in the case of Rat Wakes Red with James' layered harmonies and dark gothic overtones, the word folk just does not hit the mark. I just can't say the word folk without thinking about hippies and coffee shops and I don't think Rat would feel comfortable hanging out with or in either of the aforementioned. While many of the songs drift by like unpracticed prose, others pull together with pop practicality. Rat stays true to the fundamentals of music, which is storytelling, when he sings, "And my mind is breaking over your headbirth and hover." Although I have no idea what he's singing about, I'm sucked in nonetheless. - Graham Wilson
...catchy and emotive by Grave Concerns Trading in the cello-laced alterna-folk of their 1998 debut for an indie guitar pop sound with a distinct retro 90s bent, Rat Wakes Red's Horizon Drops is a 12-song, half hour journey into melodic nostalgia. Hints of everyone from The Pixies to Nirvana to Julianna Hatfield bubble beneath the band's sometimes catchy, sometimes dreamy blend of hooks, alt rock dynamics, and nicely layered vocal melodies.
From the punchy, energetic "Powderkeg" to the quirky, upbeat indie rock of "Galaxy" and lovely, plodding balladic closer "Anyway Now", the album's set is fairly consistent and noteworthy, perhaps as much for its overall sound and style as its songwriting. The radio-friendly indie pop of "Wheels", both catchy and emotive, is the instant highlight here, while the sinister groove of "Weekend" and quirky group vocals of its chorus provide something of a close second.
Based in well-crafted pop sensibilities, Rat Wakes Red's Horizon Drops is, without a doubt, a significant stylistic departure from the band's previous output, but it's also one that works. Granted, fans particularly set on the sonic formula of their debut may be disappointed, but those with 90s indie rock/pop leanings will find a relatively strong and nicely produced outing with a handful of pop gems.
a foray into the duality of light and dark by Grave Concerns Delving deep into mellow alterna-folk, Rat Wakes Red's 1998 debut, Dizzy on Daddy, is something of a foray into the duality of light and dark, moody melancholia juxtaposed against airier, more upbeat offerings. With hints of The Red House Painters, the band's mellow sound, based largely in guitar arpeggios and nicely enhanced by viola, is permeated by strong songwriting by central member James Raftery and excellent production from violist Jeral Benjamin that includes some interesting vocal layering.
The melancholy "Mad Elegant", complete with a nice lyrical nod to Nina Hagen, the impressive rhythm-guitar-based "Last Gasp", and the dark and lovely "Stoned and Ravished" are the real standouts of the disc's 17 tracks, 3 of which are intro/interlude/outro instrumentals. The slightly more mainstream and more upbeat "Ecstasy" and the cool viola and impressive vocal layering of the moody "Widows Burn" also shine amidst a set that is, as a whole, quite strong.
Both emotionally expressive and well written/assembled, Rat Wakes Red's debut is a noteworthy affair. Those with a penchant for dark folk and mellow alternative rock, particularly those with an affinity for strings, should definitely give Dizzy on Daddy a listen.
- Joshua Heinrich
The Big Takeover, Issue 66, Spring 2010 by Jack Rabid James Raftery, AKA Rat Wakes Red (I still expect a hardcore band with that moniker, not a transcendently beautiful alternafolkie!), is not like modern solo artists with release diarrhea. He takes his time, crafts, plots, plans, processes, and perfects; Acres is only his third LP in 11 years (a couple of modest EPs helped plug the passing years), and together with crucial producer Jeral Benjamin, he bequeaths warm sonic gifts. 1999's more acoustic Dizzy on Daddy and 2005's more electric Horizon Drops were morsels of chamber-pop in the old 4AD aesthetic. This time, RWR has chosen equally resonant, persistent piano as his principal love bomb, plus copious strings (far beyond Benjamin's charming viola on Dizzy) among deep orchestral touches that delight the senses betwixt his earnest voice. Big T favorite Hannah Fury chips in sweet guest harmonies, completing a hell of a record, another lovely affair from this consistent pairing of artist and loyal producer.
Sentimentalist Magazine, July 11, 2010 by Selina S. Rat Wakes Red may sound like the name of a punk band belting out three-chord, angsty anthems, but this act is quite the opposite, and the haunting, charmed surprise is partly what makes RWR, and their latest release, Acres, stand out. Singer/songwriter James Raftery creates orchestral pop with everything from piano swells to strings and viola, all given a crystalline finish by producer Jeral Benjamin. Voices, at the forefront, harmonize in blissed out states, backed with soothing lyricism that revels in its emotional core. Songs like “Crying Chair” stand out with an upbeat tempo and edge that bursts unexpectedly from its neo-classical base, while single “Always”, with added vocals by Hannah Fury, is a poignant toast to taking chances.