Earlier this week, I read a review for Ra Ra Riot's sophomore album The Orchard. I've never really been a fan of the website, it's too pretentious for my tastes. Don't worry, this isn't going to be a fanboy rant against the site in question but I will respectfully disagree with the reviewer.
My biggest problem with the review is that the reviewer needlessly mentioned Vampire Weekend's work and made a bold assumption about the band's mindset based solely on listening to the album.
"Any band with a successful debut is tempted to make its next album reactionary,but if Ra Ra Riot were set on doing so, they could've learned something from VW's Contra, a sonically rich and fearless comeback that sounded like the work of a band who, as our Mike Powell said, had "fallen in love with what they started and are hugging it tight without shame or apology." Instead, Ra Ra Riot sound overly self-conscious, the rural environs of their recording space failing to provide the warmth, empathy, or exuberance of The Rhumb Line"
I couldn't disagree more with this statement. In my opinion, the album successfully accomplished the difficult balance of experimenting with a new sound without neglecting fans of their previous work. To expect every album to sound like The Rhumb Line is unreasonable. People grow and change, that's just a simple fact of life. It's been two years since their debut -- how could one expect anything less?
With The Orchard, Ra Ra Riot has become more than simply a chamber-pop band. I found the songs to be softer in tone and for the most part less upbeat in tempo. Hearing cellist, Alexandra Lawn's vocals on "You and I Know" was a welcomed addition and I hope to hear more.
Ra Ra Riot, Andrew Maury (of RAC fame), Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie), and Rostam Batmanglij(Vampire Weekend) have created an extremely enjoyable album. This is the perfect album to take a leisurely drive and enjoy the sights!* Whether or not you are familiar with the band from Syracuse, this album will be a welcomed addition to your collection. But don't take my word on how great this album is, go to Ra's website and download the single "Boy" for FREE.
*Fun Fact: Driving around with no destination, while listening to some sweet tunes is one of Matt's favorite activities!
In case you missed Ra Ra Riot's performance at Sound Garden, click here!