Nutshell Album Review: Ra Ra Riot – Beta Love

Beta LoveRa Ra Riot has garnered a fair amount of attention since their 2010 release of The Orchard, which was the most recent full-length to date from the Syracuse indie rockers. But the five-piece has kept busy, releasing a handful of singles and EPs (along with being one half of the greatest indie band friendship ever with Vampire Weekend) before finally hammering out The Orchard‘s follow-up and their third LP, Beta Love. The first thing on everyone’s mind is the synthesizers. Yes, it’s no secret that the sound of this album is new. There, however, seems to be no consensus on whether or not that sound is accepted. I wouldn’t be wrong to say that it may be shocking to some fans of the group, but then again I sort of would. It wouldn’t be far off for me to say most modernized rock and indie bands try their hand at a more electronic feel (ahem…Muse?), and Ra Ra Riot is another group that has succumbed to the inevitable. But, don’t get me wrong. The inevitable doesn’t always mean it’s a bad thing, does it?

Beta Love opens with “Dance With Me”, along with Wesley Miles’ smile-inducing voice tumbling over admitting that, well, he just is having a pretty damn good time. The song seems like it will only be a small taste of electronic influence until around the two-minute mark, where we come across a short but fantastic breakdown. After that comes “Binary Mind”, a fast-paced and energetic, beat driven-track with a poppy and saw-filled chorus. It also brings out a dancefloor electric drumkit with claps overdubbing snare hits, which makes it just that much cooler. Title track “Beta Love” is one of the moments that made it clear that this record is special. It hits the combination of the new indie sound and the vibe heard from the group’s first two albums right on the head, and it would be a gift from the music gods if this was a sign of what’s to come from Ra Ra Riot. “Is It Too Much” starts off with elevator music bells (creatively paired with opening lyric “Elevator down…”) and keeps a subtle and low-key sound. This track comes out sounding very similar to frontman Miles’ side project Discover with Vampire Weekend keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij. “For Once” is another exceptional track, with Miles showing off his vocal range while the rest of the group plays coffeehouse-style melodies completed with a string solo. The song has an up-tempo and indie pop feel, and it’s definitely one to check out.

“Angel, Please” is another great example of the quintet’s abilities, opening up in a similar manner as Miniature Tigers’ “Sex on the Regular”, and then breaking into another quality track. The cowbell is broken out on this one, and the beat is just contagious. “What I Do for U” features heavy 808 bass beats with short keyboard interjections. This is a mainly rhythm section dominated song, with synths interjecting near the end. Following that is “When I Dream”, a very passionate seeming track that again sticks to low-key synths and a large emphasis on drums, bass, and strings. This song hits a more melancholy side of the group, but still maintains the album’s energy and sound. “That Much” is closer to the sound of The Orchard and The Rhumb Line, with a more rock-style refrain than what’s heard on the rest of the record (other than the Talking Heads-style solo type…thing at the end). The band’s third LP is then closed out with “Wilderness”, an almost R&B song with a “lift up your lighters” style beat and apparent Dirty Projectors influences, and “I Shut Off”, an outlet of all the album’s leftover energy that hits the electro indie pop sound from earlier on the album and a phenomenal way to close out such a great album.

People will be upset about this album. People will be upset about every album, especially when a band dramatically shifts its sound like Ra Ra Riot did for Beta Love. But, from the totally non-biased opinion of a melody and hook loving indie fanatic, this change was bold and should be well received. There’s no telling which sound of Ra Ra Riot is “better”, but both are very good. It wouldn’t be challenging to find a large population of people who would be absolutely content with the group carrying out the sound they did on this record, and this writer in particular would be standing in that crowd. Beta Love takes a 95/100, and it is hitting shelves on January 22nd.

Beta Love Tracklisting:

  1. Dance With Me
  2. Binary Mind
  3. Beta Love
  4. Is It Too Much
  5. For Once
  6. Angel, Please
  7. What I Do for U
  8. When I Dream
  9. That Much
  10. Wilderness
  11. I Shut Off
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Posted on January 16, 2013, in Album Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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