To be frank, no one really expected a new record from The Rapture. It's highly doubtful the band did either. The quintessential NYC dance-punk outfit kept just about silent after the lukewarm reception of 2006's Pieces of the People We Love, seemingly spending their time starting families and running the Throne of Blood record label. And they really didn't need to write another album, either; between Out of the Races and Onto the Tracks and the seminal Echoes, The Rapture's legacy of teaching the indie set that it's okay to dance was already set in stone. However, maybe Pieces wasn't quite the note Luke Jenner, Vito Roccoforte, and Gabriel Andruzzi wanted to end things on, or perhaps the last five years brought about enough life experiences to inspire another album about the intricacies of love and personal relationships. No matter what compelled The Rapture to return to the spotlight with In the Grace of Your Love, the fact remains: this 11-track LP is on par with some of their best work, and is certainly their most mature record to date.
But does maturity really suit The Rapture? Or, at least, the memory of what The Rapture was? "House of Jealous Lovers," easily the now-trio's most popular single, was the premiere soundtrack to dancefloor debauchery throughout '02, '03, and beyond, thanks largely in part to the Midas touch of producers/label of the moment DFA. For In the Grace of Your Love, Jenner and co. have returned to the NY-based imprint, and in some ways have recaptured the energy of the band's salad days. Lead single "How Deep is Your Love?" and opener "Sail Away" juggle some of The Rapture's trademarks—yelped vocal hooks and straightforward dance rhythms—around tasteful disco and piano-house motifs, a sound which, along with cuts like the "I Need Your Love"-esque "Can You Find a Way?" and the somberly danceable title track, exhibits just how well the energy of its earlier material can be revitalized with style and grace. New ground is covered, as well. "Come Back to Me" ditches all live instrumentation in favor of an oppressive drum-machine rhythm paired with what sounds like treated samples of a Klezmer accordian, and "Children" could easily be compared to synth-pop dynamos Cut Copy or MGMT, both bands that owe quite a bit to The Rapture. But while it is refreshing to hear them stretch their sound a bit, the results don't always work out in the band's favor.
The pitfalls of In the Grace of Your Love may be few, but they are deep. When The Rapture ventures into a sort of laidback classic-rock aesthetic—as heard on "Blue Bird," the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah-esque "Rollercoaster," and send-off sing-a-long "It Takes Time to Be a Man"—the music becomes at once entirely derivative and awkwardly out of place. The vocals can be playful and heartfelt, the instrumentation upbeat and anthemic, but these are the kinds of tracks that made Pieces a lackluster listen. "Miss You" sounds almost identical to that 2006 LP's title track, which, incidentally, is also second on the tracklist, and just barely skirts being a subpar tune because of its infectious beat, catchy chorus, and hummable vocal hooks. Still, taken as a whole, The Rapture's latest is both a welcome and necessary addition to its relatively small discography, a record the band should be both proud of and content to leave as the final chapter of its existence. At least until they come back again.