Artist: Ra Ra Riot
Album: The Rhumb Line
Comments: As much as I try to be the Fox News of record reviews (fair and balanced, motherfucker!), getting me to listen to a new band can be like pulling teeth. Based on my stubbornness, which is mule-like, and my shitheadiness, which is K-Fed like, shaking me out of my preconceived notions can be a bitch.'
Exhibit A: Ra Ra Riot's The Rhumb Line. Despite this band naming their debut album after a truly bitchin' rock club in Gloucester, Mass, I wrote them off as nothing more than Vampire Weekend-come-lately. The comparison isn't entirely without merit, as both bands utilize strings and soundtrack-ready harmonies to create summer jams for the beach going crowd. However, rather than giving The Rhumb Line the listen it deserved, I gave it the blow-off (along with my friend Mandy, who suggested the album to me).
It wasn't until weeks later when my friend and VP of common sense Jared slapped the stupid from my teeth (thanks Jared). On a late night drive, Jared and I swapped radio duties (well, I hogged the radio until Jared said “Let me play something, you goddamn ninny”) until he played a rollicking pop song sick with strings and sublime, substantial drums. “If I go to Gloucester / You know I will wait there for you / The Rhumb Line is waiting there too / You know it's worth the nights we wait there / It all falls apart” went the song, and I was instantly hooked.
And so, the heart-moving lead single “St. Peter's Day Festival,” along with the quiet obviousness of my friends, Ra Ra Riot made their way back into my brain.
After a few spins, the connections between Vampire Weekend and The Rhumb Line are still there, but Ra Ra Riot maintain a less frivolous, more mature edge to their music. These are not songs about walking across the campus. There is weight here, there is depth to both the lyrics and the music. Vampire Weekend will top the best-of lists, but I wouldn't be surprised if Ra Ra Riot proved to be the band with a future when all is said and done.
Fast, fun, a little dark and a little dramatic, The Rhumb Line is summer music for the winter time, The Empire Strikes Back to Vampire Weekend's A New Hope. Whatever happens, “St. Peter's Day Festival” is one of the best songs of the year, hands down.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Key Tracks: Ghosts Under Rocks, St. Peter's Day Festival, Winter 05
Buy, Steal, Skip: Buy “St. Peter's Day Festival” and steal the rest.