Ra Ra Riot‘s third album, Beta Love, sounds like it’s going to be a big departure from their earlier records The Orchard and The Rhumb Line. The album’s first two singles, “Beta Love” and “When I Dream,” kept their signature strings but piled on drum machines and synths.
“Dance With Me” totally ditches the chamber pop for a snaking bassline, thick synths and dance music. It could be the catchiest song they’ve ever written, and I can’t be the only one anxiously waiting to find out what other surprises Beta Love has.
Beta Love is out January 22 on Barsuk.
Ra Ra Riot is releasing a new album next month. Beta Love is the group’s third album and first as a four piece (cellist Alexandra Lawn recently left, and the group is still without a permanent drummer). While it doesn’t have the cool backstory of The Orchard — all we’ve really heard is that the new LP was recorded in Mississippi — Beta Love‘s first two tracks sound every bit as interesting.
The album’s first single, the title track, has a Passion Pit bounce in its step and a New Wave synth that they’ve been subtly incorporating for years.
The second, the just-released “When I Dream,” has a soft, nocturnal drum machine tapping in the background. Singer Wes Miles lays down a bit more R&B than usual, accompanied by their signature strings.
Both songs are a huge step out of Ra Ra Riot’s indie chamber-pop comfort zone. Beta Love was already on our list of albums to watch next year, but it might have just soared to the top.
Stream both tracks below. Beta Love is out January 22 via Barsuk.
It was easy to hear the influence of Steve Winwood on Ra Ra Riot‘s last album, The Orchard. So it makes perfect sense for them to cover “Valerie,” Winwood’s best known song.
The band had been covering the song live, but the studio version will be released on their Record Store Day split 7″ with Delicate Steve. The single’s b-side, billed as Delicate Steve with Ra Ra Riot, is a cover of Brian Eno’s “The Big Ship.”
Ra Ra Riot perfectly captures the bouncy synths and catchy hooks of Winwood’s original, and Delicate Steve absolutely nails the guitar solo. Their collaborative Eno cover should be great too.
13. Ra Ra Riot – The Orchard
Maybe it was the circumstances surrounding the album (it was written while the band lived at a peach orchard in Penn Yan, N.Y.) or maybe life on the road brought maturation, but Ra Ra Riot sounds much more comfortable on The Orchard.
The album shows incredible musicianship, but it sounds effortless – the best example of this is the bassline in “Boy.” The songs flow together and the strings blend in naturally. Even songs based on strings like “You and I Know,” which features vocals from cellist Alexandra Lawn, sound majestic without being overbearing.
The Orchard shows a fine group of musicians confident in the music they’re creating.
After relentless touring behind their acclaimed debut, The Rhumb Line, Ra Ra Riot took a break. They moved into a house on a peach orchard in Penn Yan, N.Y. to write new material.
The result, The Orchard, isn’t drastically different. Songs like “Too Dramatic” or “Massachusetts” could be leftovers from The Rhumb Line. But the album also shows a more comfortable side of the band. The prominent bass line in “Boy” and cellist Alexandra Lawn’s lead vocals on the ballad “You and I Know” push the band into exciting new territories. The Orchard also features more synths, including the Steve Winwood-styled breakdown on “Foolish.”
Gabe Duquette’s powerful drumming shapes the albums as it ebbs and flows. Where The Rhumb Line often felt static, these songs naturally take on a life of their own. Ra Ra Riot never loses focus on The Orchard. It firmly validates their significance in today’s indie music.