As you may or may not know, Ra Ra Riot lost their first drummer, John Pike, in an unfortunate and mysterious drowning accident. While he didn’t appear in a physical form on their debut album, The Rhumb Line, he is credited as a songwriter on half of its ten tracks, including many of the album’s better songs like ‘Dying Is Fine’, ‘Too Too Too Fast’ and ‘Each Year’.  Released on Arts&Crafts in Canada, The Orchard marks the first Ra Ra Riot album without Pike’s contributions, and it offers an opportunity for a re-introduction to the band. Unfortunately, the second impression is nowhere near as good as the first.

Strangely, Wes Miles’ voice seems particularly out of place. I’m trying to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong with it, what changed between albums, and I’ve settled on the fact that it’s entirely too high in the mix. Combine that with many songs being comparatively minimalistic, you have the makings of a deal breaker.  If there was a bit more substance to the backing music, I could probably overlook it, but the album seems sadly devoid of hooks. Even after a single listen to ‘Too Too Too Fast’ you would at least come away with the synth chords during the verses. The Orchard’s tracks seem to come and go without making much of an impression. First single ‘Boy’ is the closest to previous Ra Ra Riot hits, but it still seems bloodless somehow. Cellist Alexandra Lawn gets a song of her own with ‘You and I Know’, and it injects a little variety into an album that lacks it.

I didn’t know who Ra Ra Riot were before I saw them open for Death Cab for Cutie last year. Their youthful exuberance and catchy tunes made them an instant standout, and incorporating violins and cellos into pop music is always welcome. Sadly, my love for cellos doesn’t extend to this album.

Ra Ra Riot – Boy
Ra Ra Riot – You and I Know

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— , September 3, 2010    No Comments
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