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Current Joys – the project of Nick Rattigan – have releaesed their seventh album, Voyager, out today via Secretly Canadian. Voyager rattles with the live-wire feeling that’s thrummed through all of Rattigan’s previous releases: quavering, scream-itself-hoarse vocals and self-interrogation via song. But here, that bristling, sentimental rock ‘n’ roll cacophony is overlaid with a soundtrack orchestra guiding it along. It’s an odyssey, a grand-sounding journey of self-discovery spread across sixteen tracks. Part ekphrasis, part personal, it’s Rattigan learning new ways to understand his own feelings and identity while inspired by the highly-stylized, striking storytelling of filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock, Lars Von Trier, Terrence Malick, Agnès Varda, and Andrei Tarkovsky.
Voyager, Rattigan’s most mature release to date, is an evolution built on Current Joys’ prolific output since 2013. A Nevada native, Rattigan began Current Joys in Reno, before moving to New York after school and busting his ass working as a production assistant in the film/TV industry. He relocated to Los Angeles in 2016, and the songs that make up Voyager began coming together shortly after. Each piece of Current Joys’ previous discography is wholly built and envisioned by Rattigan, self-recorded and quickly released, quivering with a lonely intensity. Within six months of beginning the project, Current Joys had already released its debut, Wild Heart; by 2018, the sixth Current Joys full length and visual album, A Different Age, was out. All the while, Current Joys’ profile quickly and quietly ascended, selling out venues like LA’s El Rey along with European tours, simultaneously amassing millions of streams of the catalog, and a dedicated following.
On Voyager, Rattigan eschews lo-fi home recordings for a full band and recording sessions at Stinson Beach Studios. As a vocalist/drummer in his other band Surf Curse, Rattigan had finally opened up to the possibility of working in a professional studio. But while the audiences and songwriting/recording approaches changed and continue to evolve for Current Joys, the inspiration Rattigan draws from cinema remains a guiding force. Frequently he uses film as a jumping off point for songwriting. Lead single “Amateur” and its video reflects his affinity for the cinematic. The track is piano-heavy, a slow-build of tension, flitting with prettiness. The self-directed video features Rattigan in costume, chaotically driving a retro car.
Rattigan, who stays up all night to perfect the sequencing of his records once they’re recorded, doesn’t set out with a typical aesthetic in mind – instead, it just happens. Performing is his catharsis. Which feels palpable on Voyager; there’s fragments of hours spent watching movies, as well as stories from his own life; there’s overly-caffeinated car rides blasting the Pixies’ Surfer Rosa; there’s inspiration taken from the crooning presence of frontmen like Jeff Buckley, Chris Isaak, and Nick Cave, as evidenced on Rattigan’s cover of the Boys Next Door’s “Shivers.” And there’s the simple, ecstatic energy of getting a bunch of friends in the studio.
It’s all held together by the fervor of Rattigan’s creative process. He believes in the premonitory power of music, and he latches onto the song ideas that strike him in the moment, propelled by an abstract existentialism or burst of feeling more than anything else. It imbues Voyager with an intensity and intimacy – with the sense that you’re getting to hear, all at once, the disparate parts that make a project – or person – into a sprawling, cinematic whole.
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