RAFTER Animal Feelings (Asthmatic Kitty)
It’s rare that an artist makes his influences so obvious, and yet comes up with something unique. In the case of Rafter Roberts (yes, that is his real name), early-career Prince and late-career Stevie Wonder are the primary ones, and Rafter’s aim seems to be producing a modern version of that early 1980s sound. It’s a lofty goal, and incredibly, he has succeeded. Animal Feelings feels like the first official summer jam and is one of my favorite records in a year that is already loaded with wonderful music. This is an album that makes huge statements while minding the little details. There’s the cowbell rattle among the Brazilian stomp on the infectious “Timeless Form, Formless Time.” There’s the juxtaposition of a tinkling piano and Godzilla bass drum on “Animal Feelings.” There’s the hand-clap segue between the fireworks funk of “Fruit” and the sublime “Feels Good.” Roberts has a gift for sweeping you up into his choruses like a dance partner practically pulling your arm out of socket to get you on the floor. He knows his way around a drum kit and how to make the human voice one of the funkiest instruments in his arsenal. The best part is, he shows restraint in applying all these tools, so the music has room to breathe. I think Prince and Stevie would probably approve.
— Robert Benziker