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Album Review: Space Raft - "Space Raft"

(Dusty Medical Records)

May. 6, 2014
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space raft

It's really rather impressive how swiftly Milwaukee act Space Raft has taken off, going from playing their first gigs around town to being easily one of the city’s most talked about bands in the span of a single year. A good chunk of that buzz is down to its membership. Something of a regional supergroup, the project grew out of a scrapped film score by former Mystery Girls guitarist Jordan Davis, who then recruited TJay Christenson of Temper Temper on keys, Srini Radhakrishna, bassist of Chicago group Circles among other projects, and current Call Me Lightning drummer Tyler Chicorel. That’s quite a bit of built-in goodwill right there, but it’s mostly the band’s catchy, accessible material that’s been attracting the lion’s share of the attention.

Now, with a new self-titled album due out May 10 on local label Dusty Medical Records, which has made a roaring comeback this year after a prolonged spell of inactivity, those songs are finally slated for release. Considering its anthemic lead-off single “We Are Not Alone” is already in heavy rotation on WMSE, there’s a fair amount of expectation surrounding the rest of the record, but Space Raft lives up to it handily. Over nine tracks of crisply produced, subtly psychedelic power pop, perhaps the thing that stands out most is how confident it feels for a debut LP, with Davis and company all clicking on the same somewhat-stoned aesthetic, blurring lively modern indie rock into jangly Americana, with some cosmic doodling in the margins.

But while the album should earn plenty of spins over the summer, should warm weather ever actually arrive, there are some faults that start to wear a little bit on repeat listens. For one thing, the lyrics, which hint at a loose sci-fi storyline, can edge into the sophomoric, working in far more stars and souls and such than is really necessary, especially on the slower songs. Still, if a track like the slightly torpid “Venus in Transit” has a tendency toward navel-gazing, at least there’s one like the rollicking “Rescue Mission” right around the corner. Considered as a whole, a few missteps can’t derail what’s ultimately a likable and remarkably self-assured first effort, one which should quickly propel Space Raft even higher.

Space Raft headlines an album release show at the Cactus Club on Saturday, May 10 with Doug Tuttle at 9:30 p.m.


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