Ra Ra Riot was greeted with quick success, playing at CMJ Festival only 6 months after their formation. Their energetic and well-received live shows only helped them push further into their success. The release of The Orchard marks the bands’ second full-length release, following 2008’s The Rhumb Line.
The first impression I had when listening to The Orchard was that it sounded much like The Rhumb Line, part 2. The was not much departure from Ra Ra Riot’s debut however, it was the few differences that crop up that make this album worth listening too. Obviously Ra Ra Riot was not about to abandon the band of tricks that won over their audience, so The Orchard promises the essential orchestration and soaring vocals amongst other things.
Songs like “Boy,” on the other hand, are wear the minute changes come into play. This song sounds closer to a traditional pop/rock song than anything in the band’s catalog. The sound is very concentrated on the bass guitar licks, and while there are great string arrangements, they are much less the focus then on most other songs. Then there is “You And I Know,” which features cellist Alexandra Lawn on lead vocals. Her harmonies were present on a few tracks of The Rhumb Line, but his is the first time a member other than lead singer Wes Miles has taken forefront vocals. It makes this track perhaps one of the most standout songs on the album. Even beyond the vocal change, the slow building structure of the track sets it apart from the structure and feel of most other Ra Ra Riot songs.
However, it is not all new sounds from the group, there are tracks such as “Too Dramatic,” “Massachusetts,” and “Shadowcasting,” which exemplify the aforementioned similarities to The Rhumb Line. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but there are definitely points in the album where I wish the group would push their sound a little further. To put it simply, however, if you enjoyed their debut record, you will enjoy The Orchard. And if you haven’t really listened to Ra Ra Riot before, there are still reasons to give them a try.
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-½
Key Tracks: “Boy”, “You and I Know”, “Keep It Quiet”
Recommended if you like: Vampire Weekend, Tokyo Police Club, and Local Natives.
W = Poor
W-P = Fair
W-P-G = Great
W-P-G-U = An instant classic!