Monday, August 11, 2008

REVIEW: Ra Ra Riot - The Rhumb Line

It's been a while since anyone has posted an album review here so I thought it was high time to get some new music out to the masses.

After releasing the promising Ra Ra Riot EP last summer, dealing with the death of drummer John Pike, and going on two tours, Ra Ra Riot is ready to formally break onto the scene with The Rhumb Line. What is a rhumb line, you ask? Why, it's the path taken by a vessel that maintains a constant compass direction. What a fitting title it is, then, when no less than half of the tracks on this record are written by John Pike. His death definitely influences the tone of the album. But it's not all funeral songs. It is also a celebration.

The marriage of strings and indie rock is a good one. With Alexandra Lawn on cello and Rebecca Zeller on violin, Ra Ra Riot reminds me (and a number of other listeners, apparently) of Arcade Fire. The opening track, "Ghost Under Rocks," give the listener a sense of the profound loss endured by the band. Songs such as "St. Peter's Day Festival" and "Winter '05" only add to this tone.

However, they are able to provide enough variation that the mood doesn't get old. I don't think I've ever wanted to keep listening to an album about loss and death. Yet the celebratory notes in the tunes keep me drawn in. This is especially true for the album's single, "Dying Is Fine." Make sure to pay attention to the interlude from just before 2:00 to 2:40. The guitar/violin/cello dynamic here is intense and probably the height of the album for me.

Does the album get you down? Then check out "Too Too Too Fast," a upbeat synth track that provides a break from the chamber music sound. Listening to it reminds me of some modernized version of "Take On Me" but a little more mellow. And no, I'm not talking the Reel Big Fish or A1 versions.

I had a chance to see the sextet live at the Siren Music Festival and did they ever provide an energetic show! Too bad you'll have to drive the 2.5 hours to Syracuse if you want to see them for yourself (Syracuse University, 9/7).

In any case, The Rhumb Line comes out August 19 but you can pre-order it now from the Ra Ra Riot website.


1] Ghost Under Rocks
2] Each Year
3] St. Peter's Day Festival
4] Winter '05
5] Dying Is Fine
6] Can You Tell
7] Too Too Too Fast
8] Oh, La
9] Suspended in Gaffa
10] Run My Mouth

Official Site

Dying Is Fine
The Rhumb Line Studio Version:

Ra Ra Riot EP Version:


Anonymous said...

Nice review! I'll be the first to admit I've been really lazy reviewing stuff this summer, but I trust going back to school will get the creative juices flowing.

I actually saw Ra Ra Riot live last winter with Tokyo Police Club and Vampire Weekend. I'm a huge TPC fan, but I thought Ra Ra Riot outperformed both bands that night. Their performance seemed more Murder by Death (albeit slightly less gloomy and Johnny Cash-sounding) than Arcade Fire, but it was still very enjoyable. I haven't remembered to check them out since then though, so thanks for this reminder.

Emelie said...

I have been looking for this CD, do we have it!?!??!