I’ve always loved Ray LaMontagne. His voice manages to marry the idea of being both big and powerful while having a rasp to it. Through 4 albums, Ray has produced stunning tracks. Yet since his incredible debut, Trouble, his albums have left something to be desired. Ray often just sticks to his acoustic guitar for the accompaniment to his vocals, and while it always sounds great, it gets tiresome across a 12-track album. When I saw him in concert in 2009, he structured his playlist brilliantly in that he started with the slowest song on his album (“Burn”) and slowly built up the sound until he was rocking out on his (unreleased) final track. It was clear that Ray could go bold, and I’ve always wanted to hear him go for it on his albums. Well, he finally has.
For album #5, Ray has fully taken on the folk/rock sound, and it’s no coincidence that Supernova sounds a lot like The Black Keys. Dan Auerbach from the Grammy-winning duo is the producer on the album. “Julia” and “She’s The One” are two fantastic tracks that I’m sure Dan wishes he got to record with The Black Keys. On “She’s The One”, Ray uses his rasp to full effect. He makes his voice sound like someone who’s been smoking cigarettes for half a century, and it sounds fantastic.
Dan infuses Ray’s sound with a lot of different elements, which means there’s more than just Ray’s vocals to keep your interest across the album. Even when things slow down on “Pick Up A Gun”, “No Other Way”, and “Smashing”, there’s still lots going on musically beyond an acoustic guitar. “Airwaves” has some of the best production you’re going to hear all year, and Ray beautifully restrains his voice on the track.
The opening track, “Lavender”, has a sunshine feel of The Beatles, and just try not to tap your foot to the catchy title track. Supernova feels like Ray finally opened up the windows of his quiet room and let the neighbours join in. This is an album you’re going to want to be blasting all summer.