Ra Ra Riot – The Rhumb Line
Much has been made of Ra Ra Riot‘s history as a band, which, though interesting and heartbreaking, doesn’t really do a sufficient job of discussing the band’s current output. The Rhumb Line is their first full length album, although the band has been around for quite sometime, with nothing more than an EP to their name. And, I suppose that we could be disappointed that only 6 of the album’s 10 songs are new, but that would take away from the stunning debut they have given us.
The album begins with “Ghost Under Rocks,” a tune driven by the orchestral cello and violin work that the band uses to create the darker tones of their pop numbers. The blistering drum work on the opener adds just as much power, making a mark on the listener almost immediately. They follow this up with another song off their EP, “Each Year,” but it’s a driving song, with the guitar carrying the song, and those listening, along.
They do their best Vampire Weekend impression with “St. Peter’s Day Festival,” but the use of orchestral pieces gives the song a little bit more splendor, making it a song that won’t wear you down over time. Ra Ra Riot slows it down a bit for us with “Winter 05,” a song that relies musically on violin and cello. It’s a beautiful song, and one that gives you a break from the fast pace of the album.
Then its back to the EP songs, and two of the best songs that band has written up to this point. “Dying is Fine” is truly one of my favorite songs of the year. The music makes you tap your toes, while the vocals couldn’t possibly be better. “Can You Tell” starts off slowly, with reference to a long lost lover, before it bumps up the pace. This might be the peak moment of the album.
In “Too Too Fast” we find the band relying upon synthesizers to hold the aesthetic of this song. The female vocal accompaniment during the chorus is quite fitting, and it pushes the song further into the music of the past. Still, the song has a certain freshness that tells the listener to keep on going.
However, the album kind off falls off from here. “Oh La” just doesn’t have the same impact on the listener as the previous numbers. It’s slower, and it kind of throws off the pace of the album. From here the band jumps to a Kate Bush cover, which is good, but it takes the number of new original songs down to 5. “Run My Mouth” marks the point where the album kind of loses its luster. The final song just doesn’t add much to the overall feel of the album; it’s almost as if it could have been left off.
Now that the album is over, you kind of feel a little let down. It didn’t end as well as it started off, which disappoints. Still, the first seven songs on this album are ridiculously good, even the ones that were revisited from the past. It’s worthy of repeated listens, and it’s worthy of being in your collection.