It used to be easier to pretend that an album was its own perfectly self-contained artifact. The great records certainly feel that way. But albums are more permeable than solid, their motivations, executions and inspirations informed by, and often stolen from, their peers and forbearers. It all sounds awfully formal, but it’s not. It’s the very nature of music — of art, even. The Six Degrees features examine the relationships between classic records and five other albums we’ve deemed related in some way. In some cases these connections are obvious, in others they are tenuous. But, most important to you, all of the records are highly, highly recommended.
In the Grace of Your Love opens with "Sail Away," an epic, swollen, charging rock song that sounds more like an album's hard-earned last track than something to slot in at the start. It's notable for the cool kind of whiplash it causes (so much so soon?), but also and maybe more significantly for the way it seems to shove off, or just laugh away, questions as to where the Rapture has been for the past five years. The group went through some turmoil in the time since 2006's Pieces of the People We Love, with frontman Luke Jenner quitting the band he started and, after he returned a few months later, the departure of live-wire bassist/singer Mattie Safer. None of it proved to be more than faith could fix, though. Or if not fix, then at least make reconcilable. Declarations of faith are all over In the Grace of Your Love, in songs that barely veil their religiosity while also paying tribute to strains of soul and sound searching of a more ambiguous sort. The title track tips its cap to a certain spirit found shining on church walls, but then a song like "Come Back to Me" (with a great mid-song swerve from a jaunty accordion sound to dark dubstep menace) plays like a song of praise to music itself. Switches in style abound, from the Fleet Foxes-style harmonizing on "Blue Bird" to a slight and slow Todd Rundgren-like ballad "It Takes Time to Be a Man." But somehow the whole album coheres and sounds like the Rapture, especially when the dance music throb gets going in earnest in songs like "Never Gonna Die Again" and "How Deep Is Your Love?" That latter one is another that classes as something like a hymn, with wails of "hallelujah" laced through a classic house beat. The answer to the question it poses? Pretty deep.
After a spat-filled exit years ago, the Rapture recently returned to the label DFA and thus back into the good graces of James Murphy, who (with fellow DFA mastermind Tim Goldsworthy) produced the group's epochal dance-rock anthem "House of Jealous Lovers" back in the early '00s. Murphy has said he wouldn't have put so much time or thought into LCD Soundsystem if the Rapture hadn't left back then, so maybe it's a good thing that they squabbled, given the happy ending for all. Either way, LCD Soundsystem documents a special time when LCD was basically just a Murphy side-project and the idea of "dance-rock" as proffered by the Rapture was starting to present itself as raw and real.
The Disco Lesson
Disco has been integral to the Rapture's sound since they were limber young post-punks jazzed on hearing dance music for the first time, and New York has been their home in more than just a literal sense since they moved to the city after a few early years in San Diego. Nobody embodies the idea of classic New York disco more than Larry Levan, who pioneered the art of DJing in the '70s and '80s while spinning tunes by himself and others at the storied (and long-gone) Paradise Garage. Just check out how hot and rambunctious things get beginning at the 2:42 mark in "When You Touch Me" here let it take over and behold some of the DNA of DFA.
The (Skeevier) Disco Lesson
As important to the Rapture as disco is house music, which has served as inspiration for some of their more elementally electronic and sinisterly technoid classics. The house sound as developed in Chicago in the '80s was sleek, slender, sweaty, sexy the kind of music that makes lots of sense in a dark room way too late at night (or the next morning) with a bunch of strangers writhing around. Frankie Knuckles was a master of it all, a DJ who moved to Chicago from New York and played a role in spinning the formative genre classics of Trax Records. This collection of his own Trax favorites gathers many of the best, from the seething anthem "Move Your Body" by Marshall Jefferson to Knuckles' own "Baby Wants to Ride," a track so lascivious it could make Prince blush.
The Spirited Competition
While the story of dance-rock in the early '00s gravitates toward the Rapture and others affiliated with the label/production house/party enterprise DFA, the band known enigmatically as !!! (all together now: "chk chk chk") did just as much to get the New York rock scene grooving. The sounds were similar at the start, but !!! were more playful and elastic, a little wilder and funkier where the Rapture were best at being wiry and uptight. !!! has marshaled on to impressive ends much the same, but Louden Up Now remains a real touchstone for its investment in time and place. To wit: a song titled "Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yard (A True Story)." To even more of a wit: the salacious and just totally sick bass-line to "Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yard (A True Story)."
The Incongruous Band Favorite
Rapture frontman Luke Jenner is a big fan of the Scorpions, a band he likes to point out has more of a history than that attached to songs like "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and "Wind of Change." He's partial to anything from the time when the band was led by Uli Jon Roth, who left in 1978 after making four albums plus a live recording a string of records that Jenner calls "the missing link between Sabbath and Metallica in the evolution of rock," even though "they get NO respect." It's a slightly odd or at least surprising area of focus for a man of Jenner's station, but 1978's Taken By Force (his favorite of them all) features a few little vocal yelps and peals of guitar that one can imagine Jenner laying down on a Rapture record. There's an insistent throb and thump in "Sails of Charon," too, that could do damage to a dance floor given the right vibe.