When Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats released its album, Tearing at the Seams in 2018, it went without saying that the record (the band’s second) was very much a sophomore slump for the band. That is because by comparison to the group’s self-titled 2015 album, it was far from what audiences and critics had hoped for. Now more than three years after that record’s release, the collective has returned to form in its third album, The Future. The 11-song record is aptly-titled as its musical and lyrical content collectively shows that the group is indeed looking to the future rather than the past. One of the songs that serves so well to prove this comes right from the album’s outset in its title track. This song will be discussed shortly. ‘Love Me Till I’m Gone,’ which comes later in the record’s 41-minute run time, is another notable addition to The Future. It will be examined a little later. Much the same can be said of ‘I’m On Your Side,’ which comes even later in the album’s sequence. It will also be examined later. Each song noted here does its own share to make The Future an enjoyable new offering from Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. When they are considered alongside the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes the album overall a successful new offering from the group.
Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats’ third album, The Future is a fresh new breath of air from the collective, following the mulligan that was the band’s sophomore album, Tearing at the Seams. This latest offering from the collective shines, as noted, due to its collective musical and lyrical themes. The album’s opener/title track does well to support the noted statements. The song’s musical arrangement is part of the composition’s success. Right from its own outset, Rateliff and company present a great vintage country music style work. Rateliff’s own vocal delivery adds to the interest as it is immediately comparable to that of the one and only Bob Dylan. Even as Rateliff hits some high notes, really pushing his limits, that comparison remains. That duality, and the production that went into the song to add to the depth of the song’s sound and impact, makes the arrangement so engaging and entertaining in itself. It is just one part of what makes the song stand out, too. The lyrical theme (or rather seeming theme) that accompanies the song’s musical arrangement makes for its own interest.
The lyrical theme (or seeming theme) featured in the record is so interesting because of its contemplative nature. Right from the song’s opening, Rateliff asks, “Is the future open?/Is the future seen?” before continuing, “You’d have to pray forever/And if you don’t believe/They’ll come down on you/From the longest fall.” This very line seems to hint at the way people react to those who disagree with their own views while worrying about the future because of the present. That is of course just this critic’s own interpretation and should not be taken as the only interpretation. Rateliff even seems to address those self-righteous types as he states, “When they’ve all been vanquished and they’ve all been tried/Like it’s some great penalty/And they got no follow through/They hold the weakest stance.” He then adds, “Yeah, well they’ll come to steal and divide/All that’s good.” This collective commentary seems to be a statement about not only those who want everyone to give in to their beliefs and way of life, but those above them and how hard they will try to divide and steal all that’s good because they want their way or no way. Interestingly enough, from there, Rateliff seems to continue the noted commentary, this time seemingly pointing the finger at those who give in to that and just want to get even with the other side. That is inferred as he sings, “You say you thirst for vengeance/And you crave for fire/On the roofs of innocence/You watch them rage and writhe/And it don’t bother you/You feel so brave/You’re standing in the water/You think that you’ve been saved/With your blind ignorance/In comes a crushing wave/Now see what drown men do in your watery grave.” This really comes across even more as an indictment of those who want to force others to live life like them. It is a sort of “look at you” statement to those people. Again, this is all the interpretation of this critic and should not be taken as the only interpretation. Regardless, the unique way in which Rateliff ruminates on what is clearly a social commentary makes for so much engagement and entertainment. When that ensured interest is joined with the song’s equally enjoyable musical arrangement, the whole makes the song overall doubtless, a great addition to the album and just one example of what makes the album a success. ‘Love Me Till I’m Gone’ is another positive way in which the album shows its strength.
‘Love Me Till I’m Gone’ stands out in part because of its musical arrangement. The arrangement is a completely immersive work that blends elements of jazz and R&B from decades gone by. The use of the keyboards and horns here pairs with Rateliff’s vocals, which change here with the music) for a sound that lends itself to comparison to works from Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and other similar acts. The casual, relaxed sense that the arrangement establishes is such a wonderful starting point for the song. It is certain to engage and entertain audiences, and is just part of what makes the song stand out. The equally accessible lyrical theme featured in the song makes for even more entertainment.
The lyrical theme featured in this song is in fact a love song, but not the type that one might expect. In the case of this song, the song’s subject is in fact someone who is just looking for that reassurance that we all want. This is made clear as Rateliff sings, “Will you hold me tight when you’re close/And then/Will you love me when I’m worn out and I start to cave?” The subject adds, “These kind of moments come in waves, you know/Some take your breath and fill your days/It’s a powerful love you want to know/Ah, as we walk hand in hand/I’m just here to say that, ya/We want back time that we never have/Hours just turn into days/To love me now like you loved me then/And will you love me even when you know that I’m wrong?” The ask for that reassurance continues in the song’s closing lines in similar fashion. Keeping that in mind, the theme here, again, is not just the typical love song theme. It is a theme of someone who just wants to know that his/her loved one will be there no matter what. Again, interestingly enough, such a theme would typically conjure thoughts of a song whose musical arrangement is much more somber and reserved. That this song’s arrangement does not take that course just as the song’s theme is atypical in its own right, the whole gains that much more interest. It shows even more why The Future is worth hearing. It is just one more of the album’s most notable works, too. ‘I’m On Your Side’ is yet another way in which the album proves its enjoyment.
The musical arrangement featured in ‘I’m On Your Side’ is another composition that is rooted in the soul and funk sounds of the 1960s and 70s. That is clearly evidenced through the use of the horns and keyboards along the rich sounds of the drums, bass, and vocals. The thing here is that even with the noted influence so clear, the arrangement here boasts its own unique identity that blends in some modern rock influence a la Bruce Springsteen for a whole that is so infectious from start to end of its three minute, 19 second run time. The energy in the song’s arrangement works so well in partner with the song’s lyrical theme, which itself serves as a great companion to ‘Love Me Till I’m Gone.’ Where ‘Love Me Till I’m Gone’ finds the song’s subject needing that reassurance in what is clearly a moment of self-doubt, ‘I’m On Your Side’ is that other person essentially responding positively.
The noted statement is made clear right from the song’s title and enriched as Rateliff sings, “I’m on your side through thick and thin/We’ll cross divides and we will stand/In hope and light/But if you ain’t alright/Just remember/I’m on your side.” He also notes in the song’s lead verse, “Did you realize?/Or you can’t remember/Well, adjust your eyes and let ‘em clear/But if you ain’t alright/Just remember/I’m on your side.” This is that reassurance that the subject wanted, again, in the previously examined song. This is the other person saying to the other, “clear your eyes” as he asks that person, “do you not remember I’m here and will be?” It is a great statement, and together with the positive vibes that the song’s musical arrangement establishes, helps to show even more why the song stands out. When the two sides are joined, they make the song in whole yet another example of what makes The Future a welcome return for Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. When it and the other songs examined here are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the overall presentation makes The Future a strong new offering from the group that is a nice return to form for the group.
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’ new album, The Future, is a welcome new offering from the group that sets right what went wrong with Tearing at the Seams. Its musical and lyrical arrangements do well to prove that as they bring the group back to form while still giving audiences something new instead of just re-hashing the content from the band’s self-titled 2015 debut. All three of the songs examined here do well to support the noted statements. When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the album in whole gives hope for The Future of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats.
The Future is available now through Stax/Fantasy/Concord. More information on the album is available along with all of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’ latest news at: