RA RA RIOT Rhumb Line (Barsuk) Rating: NNN
Despite the exuberant melodies and rousing timbre of Wes Miles's vocals, there's a dark and heavy spectral presence on Ra Ra Riot's debut long-spinner. Their drummer, John Ryan Pike, who co-wrote half this album, drowned last summer in Massachusetts, near his home. This gives added solemnity to lyrics like "If you were here / Winter wouldn't pass quite so slow" on Winter '05, for example, even if they aren't necessarily about Pike. And the ever-present weeping cello, courtesy of Alexandra Lawn, that floats throughout the record's Vampire Weekend-like indie pop also creates a funerary atmosphere.
But Ra Ra sound determined not to pull the listener too far down into whatever pain is being worked through here. Rhumb Line gives the impression that mostly good things are ahead.
Ra Ra Riot roll into the Horseshoe September 4.