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3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
Format: Audio CD|Change
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I had been looking forward to this release for a while. Ray LaMontagne has yet to make an album that I haven't enjoyed and his previous releases have ranged from very good to brilliant, with those very special moments of soul-destroying emotion which make him such an essential artist. Learning that he was making his fifth album with Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys) was a tantalising prospect, especially as it was very difficult, if nigh impossible, to visualise what that collaboration was going to produce. As it turns out, the end result sounds a little underwhelming at first as, while this album definitely sounds rather beautiful, many of Ray's songs, given such a glossy sheen, lack a certain emotive quality that his music has overflown with before. That's not to say this is a bad album and, when you get to know the material a little more and are able alter your perception, it's much more than merely listenable and is, in fact, a rather delightful experience, but compared with earlier LaMontagne albums (especially the first and second), it just seems a little... well, light and infeasibly happy. Still, to give "Supernova" a fair hearing, you really need to disregard what you know about Ray LaMontagne's career so far and attempt to listen with a fresh pair of ears. Not easy, I know, but taking this album on its own merits instead of comparing it with his previous work is the best way to actually enjoy it.

So, if you are able to suspend your expectations, there are more than a handful of songs to really love here and, pleasingly, not a single duff track. Most strikingly, much of the album is drenched in summery, west coast harmonies and oodles of reverb and album opener "Lavender", with echoes of The Zombies' "Time Of The Season", shimmers, caresses and simply sounds lovely, even if Ray's voice gets lost in the mix a little. The laid back "Airwaves" has a slight Hawaiian feel to it and would be the perfect soundtrack to listen to whilst lying on a sun-drenched beach, watching the waves lap at the shore. The big, full sound of "She's The One" with Ray near-growling over the top is one of the choice tracks here and one of those hook-laden songs that buries itself deep in your brain once you hear it a couple of times. The same can be said about "Julia", a catchy, upbeat number that has almost has a glam-rock thumping drum beat and guitar riff which, together with a brief interlude between verses that sounds a little like the Small Faces' "Lazy Sunday" adds up to a pretty much irresistible cut.

The title track, "Supernova", is a breezy, organ laden gem that simply makes me smile and the near-spoken verse even has a hint of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' "Here Comes My Girl" whilst the bridge evokes memories of Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band, which can never be a bad thing. "Smashing" is a gently psychedelic beauty and the powerful chorus sees Ray delivering the line "I'll be the one who stays..." with powerful conviction. It is essential that the listener doesn't write this album off straight away because of initial impressions. Final track, "Drive-In Movies" is a pleasing and likeable country-rock romp that just screams "feel-good". All-in-all, this is a pretty fine album and I expect that it will win many sceptics around, given a few plays and an open mind. Producer Auerbach has certainly given Ray's material a different feel, but the talented band of musicians assembled here (including Auerbach on guitar) ensure there won't be many albums this year that sound quite as pleasing to the ear as this one. It may not be what you were expecting and it may not be exactly what you want, given the music he has produced in the past, but "Supernova" has enough shining moments on it to make it a more than worthy addition to Ray LaMontagne's impressive catalogue.
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Rather than bring out another album of rather fine Americana Ray Lamontagne has decided to revisit the late 60s vibe San Francisco style with an album of whispery vocals, farfisa organ, washes of strings and gently psychedelic guitar parts. That is what I call a departure and at first I have to say it didn't click with me. However on second and subsequent listens, the melodic structures have revealed themselves and I'm really quite enjoying it now. This album may not please all fans of Ray's previous work, especially the Pariah Dogs stuff, but I say give it a chance and applaud an artist trying something different.
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on 9 May 2014
I took a bit of stick around the time of 'God Willin...' for daring to suggest that maybe Ray Lamontagne was becoming somewhat predictable. It seems that he come to that conclusion himself. The choice of Dan Auerbach as producer is inspired, for if Ethan Johns(still a genius) mainly dealt in earthy tones and textures when it came to Ray's earlier albums, then Auerbach's palette in comparison is kaleidoscopic! In fairness, at its core, 'Supernova' is still Ray and his acoustic guitar. The psychedelic influence across the album makes for something different, as on opening song 'Lavender', which would be right at home on Love's 'Forever Changes'. All in all, it's a good album, and credit where it's due to Ray Lamontagne for the (slight) change of direction.
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on 11 May 2014
As the others have mentioned, this is somewhat of a departure for Ray. It's a little cheesy actually but not in a bad way. For the most part, it is a collection of jolly songs with a little bit of a rock edge to them strangely. Psychedelic, not sure, but I see what they are getting at. He certainly seems to be a lot cheerier these days when compared to the very melancholy Till the Sun Turns Black, which happens to be my favourite of his albums. I would say, give it a go. It is different but it is starting to grow on me. Side B is more successful but it is still a solid album overall. Not to everyone's tastes though I would think.
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on 10 August 2015
After watching Ray performing on Sky arts in what appeared to be a barn which I enjoyed very much I decided to buy this album which was highly recommended on Amazon. I have to be honest and say that I was disappointed, it was not what I expected. It reminded me of early 70s albums where groups were experimenting music through drug induced highs.
I suspect that I chose the wrong album to enjoy the obviously very talented Ray LaMontagne and perhaps was looking for a album which has a bit more roots and folk feel to it.
If anyone can suggest an album like this I would appreciate you advising me on which one to buy.
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on 26 May 2014
oh dear,what has Ray done,i really dont like this album,here is a great idea, take somebody with a gravel god like voice, drown it out with too much instrumentation,and then wash out the vocals,im really dissapointed,i love the black keys but ray aint them,i know he has to evolve but not like this,all it takes is an acoustic guitar and rays voice,job done,if this is the direction hes headed in count me out,take note ray,matthew ryan tried to jazz it up too much on dear love,his fans demanded better so he went back to basics,good job he did,he rerecorded the whole album without the frills and what an album,this is one fan that wont be bothering again,dont try to be something your not.
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on 23 June 2014
I have been a Ray fan for years now and have bought all of his previous albums
This album is nothing like his previous "woodsy" like productions. It is in fact over produced, too manicured and Ray's whimpering voice is really quite irritating at times. Most of the tracks sound more like Inspiral Carpets or the stone roses, definitely not Ray.
Don't know what's happened here, think rays dumped the band and just cashed in! As a massive Ray fan ( who has been to see him live whenever hes in th uk) I am really diss appointed with this latest flop.
Come on Ray get with it again, this new album just isn't you!!
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on 4 June 2014
I've been a fan of Ray LaMontagne since 'Trouble' and given the very high quality of pretty much everything he's done since, it would take something pretty special to top his previous work, but I think he has. Each of his albums has had a different flavour, this one having something of a West Coast, psychedelic sound to it. However, the quality of the songwriting is as good as always, if not better, with some real gems on here. I'll be playing this a lot over the summer, ideally while driving on a sunny day.
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on 17 June 2014
This is a really boring album, I like LaMontagne a lot, but this isn't a patch on his earlier work.
There are no stand out tracks, a couple of them sound like straight rip offs from other sixties records: the rest sent me to sleep.
Avoid, and wait for a better effort next time round.
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on 9 June 2014
In my opinion this is his weakest album to date.Is he trying to be too poppy.Not one song from this album will go anywhere near my ipod.
So disappointed as he is one of my favourite singer/songwriters
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