Ra Ra Riot “The Orchard”

Barsuk 2010

In 2007, this Syracuse band put out one of that year’s most revered records, “The Rhumb Line”. I was an avid listener of that album, but only for a few of its songs—their “hit” “Dying Is Fine”, the anxious lament “Can You Tell”, the fiery opener “Ghost Under Rocks”, and the should-have-been dance hit “Too Too Too Fast”. I could never get myself into the rest of the album. The other songs don’t reach the bar set by these four stellar tunes, and that Kate Bush cover of “Suspended In Gaffa” just reeked of filler.

But, it seems the rest of the world creamed over Ra Ra Riot’s first album, which is fine—more power to a band who at least KIND of knows what they’re doing, I thought. However, I smelled trouble with the sophomore effort, “The Orchard”. Bands like these are totally set up to fail before they even find success, and very few can make a satisfying second album after wowing the world with their first one.

But, what’s this? “The Orchard” rules! Compared to “The Rhumb Line”, it has more good songs, better production, and features and incredibly tight, road-worn band with a much more solid rhythm section. Also, all the songs are originals—no unnecessary Kate Bush covers to fill space. The first single, “Boy”, is an undeniable hit, with its ADD bass lines and soaring vocal melodies. “Too Dramatic” may have been created from the same template, but it too has unavoidable hooks and overall, flat out rocks. “Shadowcasting” is a pop anthem that sounds as if Squeeze spent an evening writing songs with Owen Pallett—as the song plays with its simple but delectable hook, string parts swarm all around it like a flower patch overwhelming a garden statue.

With that said, the album has its weak spots—it kind of tapers off with the last couple songs, for example. But what album is perfect anyway? Quite simply, “The Orchard” is a beautiful pop record, and it shows Ra Ra Riot progressing rather unbelievably. To my surprise, it has so far not been well-received. It’s almost as if people had made the decision they were tired of this band even before they pushed the play button. Seriously, what do you want out there, people? Is every band doomed to the Shunnery unless they make a carbon copy of the first album of theirs you fell in love with? Are we that shallow? Are we that selfish? Answer one at a time, please. ***1/2

The video for “Boy”…

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2 Responses to “Ra Ra Riot “The Orchard””

  1. Nathan Says:

    Hey man, good review.

    People were creaming over their cellist, Alexandra Lawn. BTW, how does it happen that every pic of her on google was taken by a pro?

    I just listened to this a few times last week. I get into it with “boy” and really like “dramatic,” but then get distracted throughout the rest of the album waiting for another upbeat song (maybe like those poor reviews folks). If those were songs 3 and 7 it would be a different experience.

    • recordgeekheaven Says:

      I hear ya–I think the sequencing is a little off, too. That’s why I mentioned it tapers off towards the end–those two slow songs back to back kinda kill the momentum. But overall, I think this is a much better record than the first.

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