Frontier Psychiatrist

Oh, La! – Ra Ra Riot Returns

Posted on: August 30, 2010

Ra Ra Riot Keeps It Quiet

Their name suggests that Ra Ra Riot makes either raucous or humorous music. Or maybe this is what your English teacher calls irony. On their second record, the Syracuse sextet offers more orchestral pop tunes tinged with the ache of love gone wrong.

Released last week, The Orchard continues on the path that Ra Ra Riot established on their 2008 debut, The Rhumb Line. Once again, frontman Wes Miles provides the heartache with his high-pitched vocals, while the string-driven band offers a cathartic cheeriness that seems inspired by an 80s teen movie soundtrack. The album cover, a suburban house illuminated at night, speaks to the paradoxical mood: a veneer of wholesomeness that masks angst beneath the surface.

Ra Ra Riot, Shadowcasting

In their pop perfectionism, Ra Ra Riot sounds similar to former tour-mates Vampire Weekend; Miles likely learned some lessons from keyboardist Rostam Batmangi, who mixed one track on The Orchard and with whom Miles has collaborated in the past. Like those polished preppies (and Sufjan Stevens), Ra Ra Riot loves strings: Alexandra Lawn (cello) and Rebecca Zeller (violin) play on every song on The Orchard and help define the record’s sound. RRR also resurrects the spirit of The Police, with its interplay among syncopated bass lines, minimalist guitar, and sparse drums. Meanwhile, with his yelps, falsetto leaps, and quasi-British inflection, Miles gets in touch with his inner Sting.

Ra Ra Riot, Massachusetts

Lyrically, The Orchard is all heartbreak, all the time. The lovers in these songs are cold, foolish, doubtful, callous, miserable, and uncommunicative. Yet the lyrics avoid the source of their suffering. As a result, the songs often sound like indie haiku. Even the album’s title is an enigma, explained only by a single lyric on the title track: “All my life/You were important/And your father too/Wandering the orchard/Through burning golden eyes.” Then again, an orchard is less esoteric than the title of their first album. (A rhumb line, a.k.a. a loxodrome, is a line crossing all meridians of longitude at the same angle. Take that, math rock.)

If the first nine songs on The Orchard juxtapose pain and hope, the last track is pure agony. On “Keep it Quiet,” Miles pours out his heart over sustained keyboard chords while a solitary drum pounds quarter notes. The melancholy builds for two minutes before guitar, strings and and backing vocals break the tension. For the next two minutes, Miles turns up the emotion with the repeated phrase “Oh My God/Oh My God/How Can I Want to Stay Around?” before the song ends with a single drum beat: an appropriate end for a record of quiet riots.

Ra Ra Riot, Keep It Quiet

Ra Ra Riot: The Orchard

Ra Ra Riot is on tour through November, with four shows this fall in New York: two at The Bowery Ballroom and two at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. For more music and videos, see the band’s web site.




Advertisements

3 Responses to "Oh, La! – Ra Ra Riot Returns"

[…] Sting? Dear David Remnik: On behalf of Gordon Sumner, The Police, and their direct descendants Ra Ra Riot, we accept your […]

[…] Ra Riot balanced their set at the Bowery with material from their new record, The Orchard, recently reviewed on FP, and their 2007 debut The Rhumb Line. The band matched Miles in energy, as they bowed, strummed, […]

[…] was released in Manhattan earlier this week. Meanwhile, Ra Ra Riot, whose new record The Orchard we reviewed in August, released a short film on the making of the record earlier this month.  The film can be seen in […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow Us:

Send Us Your Music:

Staff

L.V. Lopez, Publisher
Keith Meatto, Editor-In-Chief
Peter Lillis, Managing Editor
Freya Bellin
Andrew Hertzberg
Franklin Laviola
Gina Myers
Jared Thomas
Jordan Mainzer

Contributors

James Tadd Adcox
Michael Bakkensen
Sophie Barbasch
John Raymond Barker
Jeffery Berg
P.J. Bezanson
Lee Bob Black
Jessica Blank
Mark Blankenship
Micaela Blei
Amy Braunschweiger
Jeb Brown
Jamie Carr
Laura Carter
Damien Casten
Krissa Corbett Kavouras
Jillian Coneys
Jen Davis
Chris Dippel
Claire Dippel
Amy Elkins
Mike Errico
Alaina Ferris
Lucas Foglia
Fryd Frydendahl
Tyler Gilmore
Tiffany Hairston
Django Haskins
Todd Hido
Paul Houseman
Susan Hyon
Michael Itkoff
Eric Jensen
David S. Jung
Eric Katz
Will Kenton
Michael Kingsbaker
Steven Klein
Katie Kline
Anna Kushner
Jim Knable
Jess Lacher
Chris Landriau
Caitlin Leffel
David Levi
Daniel F. Levin
Carrie Levy
Jim Lillis
Sophie Lyvoff
Max Maddock
Bob McGrory
Chris Lillis Meatto
Mark Meatto
Kevin Mueller
Chris Q. Murphy
Gina Myers
Tim Myers
Alex Nackman
Michael Nicholoff
Elisabeth Nicholson
Nicole Pettigrew
Allyson Paty
Dana Perry
Jared R. Pike
Mayumi Shimose Poe
Marisa Ptak
Sarah Robbins
Anjoli Roy
Beeb Salzer
Terry Selucky
Serious Juice
David Skeist
Suzanne Farrell Smith
Amy Stein
Jay Tarbath
Christianne Tisdale
Phillip Toledano
Joe Trapasso
Sofie van Dam
Jeff Wilser
Susan Worsham
Khaliah Williams
David Wilson
James Yeh
Bernard Yenelouis
Wayan Zoey

Listening To:

Sons of Dionysus


A Transmedia Novel of Myth, Mirth, and the Magical Excess of Youth.